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Education 2021

Education is the surest way to build a pathway to lifelong success, and the early years of a child’s life are imperative to laying a solid foundation for success. Establishing the conditions that promote educational achievement for children is critical,. With a strong and healthy early beginning, children can more easily stay on track to remain in school, graduate on time, pursue postsecondary education and training and enjoy a successful transition into adulthood. Closing gaps in educational access and quality is key to ensuring the future workforce can compete and build or continue the cycle of success and independence.

When reviewing the data reported in this section, it is important to note that due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools were closed to in-person learning during the 4th quarter of the 2019/20 school year. 

Source: Nebraska Department of Education.

Child care

6.2% (9,330)
Nebraska parents of children 0-5 quit, did not take, or greatly
changed their job because of child care problems in 2019-20.2

Child care subsidies (SFY 2020)4

  • There were 25,217 children in Nebraska who received child care subsidies in SFY 2020. 1,739 children were in the care of a license-exempt facility.
  • An average of 15,143 children received a subsidy each month for an average of 7 months. 10,938 were below school age, and 5,399 were school age.
  • 11,649 children receiving a subsidy were from a family living below 100% FPL, 3,398 were from families between 100%-130% FPL and 1,772 were from families between 130%-185% FPL.
  • $42,500,397 in state and $59,695,235 in federal funds were spent on the child care subsidy program.
1. Roster of Licensed Child Care and Preschool Programs in Nebraska; U.S. Census 2019 American Community Survey 5-year Estimates, Table B23008.
2. 2019/20 National Survey of Children’s Health
3. Childcare Aware of America, 2020 State Child Care Facts in the State of Nebraska. 
4. Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Step Up to Quality

Nebraska Step Up to Quality is an Early Childhood Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), passed by the Nebraska Legislature in 2013. The primary goal of Nebraska Step Up to Quality is to improve early care and education quality and increase positive outcomes for young children. This is done through informing parents about quality early care and education programs in understandable and measurable ways. In addition, it improves teacher and director effectiveness through training and professional development, formal education, and coaching. It also emphasizes strengthening the understanding and use of standards, assessment processes, and using data to improve quality.

As of 10/21/2021 Nebraska had
614 Step Up to Quality programs

240 Providers – Step 1: The program has completed the application to participate in Step Up to Quality, staff members have submitted a professional record, and the program’s director has completed orientation.

225 Providers – Step 2: The program director completed several trainings related to safety, child health, early learning, and management, as well as several self assessments related to child development knowledge.

149 Providers – Steps 3-5: Once programs achieve Step 2 they are eligible for coaching services. Early childhood coaches help guide programs as they set goals to make program improvements. During the rating process, programs earn points in the following standard areas, curriculum, learning environments & interactions, child outcomes, professional development and training, family engagement & partnerships, and program administration. Step 3-5 ratings are determined by the number of points achieved.

School-based preschool (2019/20)¹


children were enrolled in public

school-based preschool.

Public school preschool enrollment (2000/01 - 2019/20)¹

Early Development Network (2019/20)

The Early Development Network (EDN) serves families with children born with disabilities.


infants and toddlers had an Individualized Family Service Plan through EDN.

  • 1,979 with a developmental delay
  • 95 with a speech language impairment
  • 75 with a hearing impairment
  • 39 with autism
  • 113 with some other disability

Source: Early Development Network, Annual Performance Report, FFY 2019-20.

Sixpence (2019/20)³
Sixpence serves children birth to age three who are at risk of failure in school and is funded through public and private dollars. There were 31 Sixpence programs in the state of Nebraska in the 2019/20 program year serving:

  • 886 families
  • 88 pregnant moms
  • 1,038 children


children were served in 20 Early Head Start and 19 Head Start Programs in the 2020/21 program year.²


pregnant women were served in Early Head Start in the 2020/21 program year.²


of the children served by Early Head Start/Head Start in 2019/20 were unhoused and 3.9% were in foster care.²

1. Nebraska Department of Education.
2. Office of Head Start, Program Information Report.; Kids Count 2020.
3. Sixpence Early Learning Fund 2019-20 Evaluation Report, UNMC.

K-12 Student Characteristics

School membership by grade (2019/20)


of Nebraska school students were highly mobile, meaning they enrolled in two or more public schools during the 2019/20 school year. Higher school mobility is correlated with lower achievement.

329,290 children were enrolled in public school in 2019/20.¹

Rate of home schooled students per 1,000 students (2010/11 - 2019/20))

Source: Nebraska Department of Education.

Percent of students who were English language learners (2010/11 - 2019/20

Free/reduced cost school meals

Percent students eligible for free or reduced price school meals (2010/11 - 2019/20))

There were 958 Summer Food Participation sites in 2020, each serving an average of 147 meals daily.¹

English Language Arts Proficiency

Reading is a fundamental skill that affects learning experiences and school performance of children and teens. The ability to read proficiently translates to a greater likelihood of performing well in other subjects. Children with lower reading achievement are less likely to be engaged in the classroom, graduate high school, and attend college.

Source: Child Trends, Reading Proficiency.

Sources: Nebraska Department of Education.

Math Proficiency

Math skills are essential for functioning in everyday life, as well as for future success in our increasingly technical workplace. Students who take higher courses in mathematics are more likely to attend and complete college. Those with limited math skills are more likely to find it difficult to function in everyday society and have lower levels of employability.
Source: Child Trends, Mathematics Proficiency.

Sources: Nebraska Department of Education.

Science Proficiency

Proficiency in science helps prepare students to go on to highly skilled professions. Having a strong foundation in the sciences allows students to work in today’s high demand fields. Students with a greater understanding of sciences learn how to better protect the environment and increase the health and security of people throughout the world.

Source: Child Trends, Science Proficiency.

*Data for 2021 was unavailable.

Sources: Nebraska Department of Education.

Absences & career readiness

613 (0.2%)
students in public and nonpublic
schools were expelled during the
2019/20 school year.

 22,462 (6.8%)
students in public and nonpublic
schools were suspended during
the 2019/20 school year.

1,737 students in public and nonpublic
schools dropped out in 2019/20.

Source: Nebraska Department of Education.

100,000 (53.3%)

young people age 18- 24 were enrolled in or completed college.3


of Nebraska’s 2019/20 public high school graduates had enrolled in college by April 2020.1


of students who enrolled in a 2-year public college in fall 2014 completed within six years.1

24,973 students

of the 2020 graduation cohort took the ACT with average composite score of 19.9.2

16,000 (8.3%)

young people age 18-24 were not attending school, not working, and had no degree beyond high school.3


of students who enrolled in a 4-year public college in fall 2014 completed within six years.1

2,950 students

were enrolled in a career academy in 2019/20.2

20,837 students

were enrolled in dual credit courses in 2019/20.2

4,000 (3.9%)

teens 16-19 were not in school and not working.3

1. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
2. Nebraska Department of Education.
4. The Annie E Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center.

Graduation & educational savings

20,690 students

completed high school in four years in 2019/20.


16-21 year olds took the GED in 2019/20 with 80.0% completing successfully.

90.5% 2020 extended 5-year*
graduation rate, a decrease from 91.3% from the 2019 cohort 5-year graduation rate.

*Extended 5th year graduation rate is the percent of students who graduated within five years rather than the standard four. Source: Nebraska Department of Education.