Tax Credits

School Readiness Tax Credits for the Early Childhood Workforce and Step Up to Quality Program Participants

In 2016, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB 889 which created two new tax credits. One credit is for Nebraska’s early childhood professional workforce, and the second tax credit is for the quality early childhood programs that participate in Nebraska’s Step Up to Quality Program. These tax credits were enacted with the intent to support investment in quality early child care and education and increase access to quality early child care and education across the state of Nebraska. More information regarding the program tax credit can be found on the Nebraska Department of Revenue website after July 1, 2017.

The early childhood workforce tax credit is available for the 2017-2022 tax years to early childhood professionals who have attained the minimum qualification of a Child Development Credential (CDA) and who are employed in an early childhood program participating in Step Up to Quality. Additional early childhood professional development is required to be eligible for the tax credit. It is encouraged that early childhood professionals improve their knowledge and continue to seek professional development with the goal of enhancing and improving environments for children enrolled in quality programs.

The amounts of the refundable credit are based on the eligible staff member’s classification level as recommended by the Nebraska Department of Education. There are four classification levels (see chart below). The recommended classification is based on information self-reported and entered into Nebraska’s Early Childhood Professional Records System.

A tax credit attestation application must be completed in the Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Record System. The deadline for applying for the attestation of classification level is January 15, 2018. Once received, the eligible staff member can submit their claim to the Department of Revenue when filing their income tax return.

Classification Levels Chart

 PointsTax Credit
Level 1All Base Requirements$500
Level 27 – 9 Points$750
Level 310 – 12 Points$1,250
Level 413 – 15 Points$1,500

Point Determination

EducationPoints
CDA or one-year certificate/diploma in Early Childhood Education or Child DevelopmentBase Requirement
Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education3 Points
Bachelor’s Degree or above in a related field**4 Points
Bachelor’s Degree or above in Early Childhood Education or Child Development5 Points
TrainingPoints
12 clock hours of NDE verified/approved trainingBase Requirement
15 clock hours of NDE verified/approved training3 Points
24 clock hours of NDE verified/approved training4 Points
30 clock hours of NDE verified/approved training5 Points
Work ExperiencePoints
At least 6 months of employment in an eligible program* during the tax yearBase Requirement
At least 1 year experience working in an early care and education environment (including 6 month base requirement)3 Points
At least 2 years of experience working with children in an early care and education environment (including 6 month base requirement)4 Points
At least 3 years of experience working with children in an early care and education environment (including 6 month base requirement)5 Points

*Eligible programs are defined as ones participating in Step Up to Quality (at a Step 1 rating or higher). Applicant must have worked in an eligible program for at least 6 months during the tax year.

**Related fields include Elementary Education, Early Childhood Special Education, Social Work, Nursing, Psychology, Human Development & the Family, Family Consumer Science, Youth Development, Mental Health/Counseling.

Example

EducationEarly Childhood Teach with CDABase
Training24 hours of training4 Points
Work Experience3 years of experience
(including 6 months base requirement)
5 Points
Total9 Points
LevelLevel 2
Tax Credit$750

The tax credit will become available in the 2017 tax year to early childhood professionals who have attained at least the base requirements in the highest achievement in each category.

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Orientation

Orientation

Your first step on the path to quality is to register for and complete the Step Up to Quality orientation. For your convenience, we offer orientation online or in person. In-person orientation sessions are free to attend; there is a $5 fee for online orientation. Attendees will earn 1.5 in-service hours for their time.

Here’s what you can expect to learn in your orientation session:

  • History of Step Up to Quality
  • Program goals, supports and benefits
  • Introduction to Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Records System
  • Overview of steps 1-5

Online Orientation

To pre-register for an online orientation session, please complete this form.

In-Person Orientation

Please visit the Nebraska Early Childhood Training Calendar to find an in-person Step Up to Quality orientation in your area.

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Overview

You can change a child’s path with Step Up to Quality.

High-quality early childhood programs can have a lifelong, positive impact on young children and their families. Step Up to Quality helps early child care providers and educators recognize and improve quality.

Programs enrolled in Step Up to Quality have access to coaching and resources that help them on their path to higher quality. These resources enable any provider or educator –– big or small –– to take quality to the next level.

Step Up to Quality programs go beyond what is required because they strive to do better for their children’s and families’ futures.

It’s important to reflect, change and grow your program to become better for children. Step Up to Quality has helped me reflect on my strengths and weaknesses so I can offer more.

— Family child care provider, Step 2, Gothenburg

Who can participate?

Step Up to Quality supports all child care and early childhood education programs, including:

  • Licensed family child care homes
  • Licensed child care centers
  • Head Start and Early Head Start programs
  • Public school-operated early childhood programs
  • Community preschools

Steps at-a-glance

Step 1

Step 2

  • Complete training sessions:
    • Safe with You Series
    • Early Learning Guidelines Domain Series
    • Management Training or Getting Down to Business
  • Complete Go NAP SACC orientation and Pre-Self Assessment
  • Complete coach interest questionnaire

Steps 3-5*

*Prekindergarten programs established by public schools, Head Start programs and nationally accredited programs are eligible to enter at Step 3.

Once you understand that Step Up to Quality is an ongoing process that you will work through at your own pace, it’s not quite as intimidating. The process is not meant to be rushed through – each program will have its own timeline.

— Center director, Step 4, Lincoln

Every step counts.

Step Up to Quality is not a typical rating system –– it’s a path. No matter where you are on the path, you are making a statement: “I want to be the best I can be so I can best serve my children and families.”

Step Up to Quality is an ongoing process – while we are getting closer to moving to the next step, we know that won’t be the end. It will merely be another starting point to continue to improving what we have.

— Center director, Step 2, Omaha

Learn about the benefits of Step Up to Quality or get started today!

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Resources

Child Care Subsidy

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services can help with the cost of child care via the Child Care Subsidy program. Child Care Subsidy provides benefits for parents and families who are working hard to support themselves.

Click here for more information about Child Care Subsidy.

First Connections with Families

First Connections with Families is a statewide initiative developed by the Nebraska Department of Education, in cooperation with the Health & Human Services System, to meet the requirements of LB 326, the Nebraska Read, Education and Develop Youth Act. This booklet contains information about child development, reading to your child, and child health and safety.

First Connections with Families is distributed to families in Nebraska with newborn babies.

Thank you to staff at the Nebraska Department of Education, Office of Early Childhood and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services for their contributions in writing and design.

Additional Resources

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School Readiness

School Readiness

It is important for kindergarten children to have expectations appropriate for their physical, emotional and intellectual capabilities. Learning goals should align with the kindergarten teacher’s goals to support a successful school experience.

From birth to the first day of kindergarten, parents, teachers and community leaders should be thinking about how to prepare children for school. Their early home and community environments should support learning and development.

Specific academic skills often thought to be prerequisites for school success can easily be learned by children whose needs in the following five areas have been met:

  • Health and physical well-being
  • Social and emotional well-being
  • Approaches to learning
  • Language development
  • General knowledge about the world around them

For more information about school readiness, click here.

School Readiness Resources

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Quality Child Care

The case for quality child care.

The type of child care you choose for your child can have a big impact on their future. Early learning builds the foundation for skills needed in school, work and life, with 90 percent of brain development occurring before age 5.

Children who receive quality early child care and education are more likely to:

Step Up Wheel Showing cycle of quality child care

Step Up to Quality helps families identify early childhood providers who demonstrate a commitment to quality care. Step Up to Quality programs go beyond what is required because they strive to do better for their children’s and families’ futures.

Every step counts.

Step Up to Quality is not a typical rating system — it’s a path. Whether a child care provider is at Step 1 or Step 5, they are making a statement: that they want to be the best they can be for the benefit of their children and families.

Programs are rated based on meeting quality standards, which are described in the next section.

  • Step 5 – Far exceeds quality standards
  • Step 4 – Exceeds quality standards
  • Step 3 – Meets quality standards
  • Step 2 – Approaching quality standards
  • Step 1 – Committed to quality improvement

What does quality look like?

Curriculum. Providers should utilize an evidence-based curriculum that is developmentally appropriate, aligned with the Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines and incorporates child nutrition and physical activity.

Learning environments. Whether in a family child care home, a child care center or a preschool, providers should adapt learning activities to meet the needs of individual children.

Teacher-child interactions. Teachers should actively engage children in everyday learning with effective teaching approaches that enhance each child’s learning and development.

Child outcomes. Early child care providers and educators should be knowledgeable of developmental milestones and regularly assess and communicate about children’s skills, strengths and needs.

Professional development and training. Programs should be staffed with knowledgeable, effective and professional staff who pursue lifelong learning.

Family engagement and partnerships. Providers and educators should maintain collaborative relationships with families to help support each child’s learning and development.

Program administration. Quality early child care providers carefully select and guide staff and substitutes. They implement sound business practices for managing income, expenses and facility maintenance.

Here are a couple of resources to help you in your search for a quality child care program:

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Apply Now

Apply Now

Applying for Step Up to Quality is a simple, two-step process:

First, the director/licensee must create and submit a program profile and a profile for themselves in the Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Record System. Here is some information you’ll need on hand as you complete a program profile:

  • Number of full-time and part-time staff
  • Number of enrolled, full-time, full-pay children
  • Number of enrolled children receiving Child Care Subsidy
  • Accreditation information (if applicable)

Once a program profile has been created, each staff member must also complete a record. Staff members must have individual email addresses – the process takes approximately 10-15 minutes per staff member. Professional records consist of the following information:

  • Profile and contact information
  • Employment history
  • Education information
  • Early childhood credentials
  • Training history

Apply Now

Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Record System

The Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Record System was developed by the Nebraska Department of Education, Office of Early Childhood in response to the Step Up to Quality Child Care Act of 2013. The system collects and stores important information about child care and early childhood education programs across the state.

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Preschools

Steps At-A-Glance: Preschools

Step 1

Step 2

  • Complete required trainings:
    • Safe with You Series (4 hours)
    • Early Learning Guidelines Domain Series (42 hours)
    • Management Training (45 hours) if licensed for 13 or more
    • Getting Down to Business (20 hours) if licensed for 12 or fewer
  • Complete Go NAP SACC orientation (20 minutes) and submit Pre Self-Assessment
  • Complete Coach Interest Questionnaire

Steps 3-5

  • Complete Curriculum Alignment Form if necessary
  • Select an observation tool and complete observation tool training
  • Keep all professional records up to date
  • Earn points based on quality standards and indicators*
  • Complete and submit Rating Readiness Tool

*Note: Preschool programs with a license capacity of 12 or fewer will follow the indicators/points available for family child care home providers. Preschool programs with a license capacity of 13 or more will follow the indicators/points available for child care centers.

Director of Record Change

To update or change your Director of Record information, please fill out the online form.

Early Learning Connection

Nebraska’s Early Learning Connection (ELC) is an integrated system of early childhood professional development. The ELC consists of a statewide hub at the Early Childhood Training Center and seven regional ELC partnerships, along with other state and regional partners. It is designed as a system that supports the career and professional development of all who provide programs and services for young children, birth to 8, that includes:

  • Professional development for early childhood and school-age
  • Supports for implementation utilizing early childhood coaches
  • Program quality assessments
  • Strategic planning with higher education and other adult learning organizations
  • Community engagement and outreach

Click here for more information about ELC.

Environment Rating Scales (ERS)

The early childhood care and education field in Nebraska continually strives to improve the quality of programs for young children and their families. The use of environment rating scales is a widely accepted method of evaluating and improving the quality of home- and center-based programs.

Environment Rating Scales is broadly defined and currently includes Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS-3), Infant Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ITERS-R), and the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale-Revised (FCCERS-R).

Training by Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) staff on the Environment Rating Scales is designed for early childhood educators working in Nebraska and is for the purpose of quality program improvement of Nebraska early childhood programs.

For information about upcoming ERS trainings, click here.

The ERS Self Assessment Form can be used by directors and teachers to internally identify strengths and focus on changes the program plans to make. Click here to access the ERS Self Assessment form.

Licensing

Click here to learn about the types of child care licenses and regulations for Preschools.

Child Line

The Child Line is a statewide, toll-free telephone resource for those working with young children and their families. Any person in Nebraska interested in issues that affect young children and their families may call.

The Child Line provides information, resources and support concerning early childhood care and education. You might call for answers to your questions about:

  • A local conference or training in your area
  • Funding information
  • Help with a challenging situation at your early childhood program
  • Media materials for in-service hours
  • Licensing information
  • Information on starting a child care program
  • Child care resources and referrals
  • Any other issue affecting young children and families

The Child Line can be reached Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST. 1.800.89.CHILD (1.800.892.4453)

Other Resources

Nebraska Extension – Early Childhood Development

Go NAP SACC

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Public Schools

Steps At–A–Glance: Public Schools

Public schools, Head Start and accredited programs enter at Step 3.

Step 3

Step 4-5

  • Complete Coach Interest Questionnaire
  • Complete curriculum alignment form if necessary
  • Select an observation tool (CLASS or ERS) and complete observation tool training
  • Earn points based on quality standards and indicators
  • Keep all professional records up to date
  • Complete and submit Rating Readiness Tool

Director of Record Change

To update or change your Director of Record information, please fill out the online form.

Environment Rating Scales (ERS)

The use of environment rating scales is a widely accepted method of evaluating and improving the quality of home- and center-based programs.

Environment Rating Scales is broadly defined and currently includes the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS-3), the Infant Toddler Environment Rating Scale-Revised (ITERS-R), and the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale-Revised (FCCERS-R).

For access to upcoming ERS trainings, click here.

Click here to access the ERS Self Assessment form.

Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)

CLASS™ is an observation tool that focuses on the effectiveness of classroom interactions among teachers and children. These daily interactions promote children’s social and cognitive development.

CLASS™ observation tools have been developed for Toddler, Pre-K, K-3, Upper Elementary and Secondary age groups. At every age level, the CLASS™ measure focuses on interactions that support learning.

To access upcoming CLASS trainings, click here.

The CLASS Self Assessment Form can be used by directors and teachers to internally identify strengths and focus on changes the program plans to make. Click here to access the CLASS Self Assessment form.

Child Line

The Child Line is a statewide, toll-free telephone resource for those working with young children and their families. Any person in Nebraska interested in issues that affect young children and their families may call.

The Child Line provides information, resources and support concerning early childhood care and education. You might call for answers to your questions about:

  • A local conference or training in your area
  • Funding information
  • Help with a challenging situation at your early childhood program
  • Media materials for in-service hours
  • Licensing information
  • Information on starting a child care program
  • Child care resources and referrals
  • Any other issue affecting young children and families

The Child Line can be reached Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST. 1.800.89.CHILD (1.800.892.4453).

Head Start

Head Start State Association

Head Start State Collaboration Office

Head Start Performance Standards

Other Resources

Nebraska Extension – Early Childhood Development

Go NAP SACC

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