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The Race to Become the Best State for Babies

The Race to Become the Best State for Babies

by Brandon Busteed
Chart: data points are described in article

There has been growing evidence over the past decade to suggest the early stages of learning and development are critical to one's success in school and life. Experts have made the case that early childhood learning and development may be more important than any other learning and developmental stage in life. Dr. Samuel Meisels, executive director of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, is among them -- and he is largely regarded as one of the country's top experts on the subject. His vision is for Nebraska to become the best state in the nation in which to be a baby.

To help make this vision a reality, Gallup and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute partnered at the University of Nebraska to conduct one of the largest and most comprehensive statewide surveys of early childcare and education. More than 7,100 adults living in Nebraska, where the institute is located, participated in the survey. The results -- albeit from one state -- may change the course of early childhood education as we know it.

The findings reveal that only 1% of Nebraskans say all children from birth to age 5 in Nebraska receive high-quality early care and education, and only 20% say most children receive high-quality care. Yet a vast majority (69%) identify early childhood care and education as a very important investment for the state -- higher than both community colleges (51%) and four-year colleges and universities (44%). And two-thirds of Nebraska residents say the state should make early childhood care and education a higher priority than it is today.

These results suggest Nebraska has a long way to go to realize Dr. Meisels' vision. But there also is a clear mandate from Nebraskans to invest more in early care and education. There is a wide gulf between Nebraska residents' feelings that all children in the state receive high-quality care (1%) and their identification of the matter as such a very important priority (69%).

These data speak for those who can't speak for themselves: the babies, toddlers and young children of the state. And thanks to this powerful study, Nebraska is already out in front in the race to become the best state in which to be born.

Read the full report.

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