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Diane Lewis

Diane Lewis

Step Up to Quality Rating Specialist

Diane oversees the rating reviews of participating Step Up to Quality programs reaching Steps 3, 4 or 5. Prior to joining the Step Up to Quality team, Diane spent more than 30 years working in child care, in the Child Care Grants and Child Care Licensing programs of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Diane received her degree in Psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her passions lie in understanding human behavior and how people of all ages think and learn, and helping people realize their own strengths to accomplish things they never thought possible.

Diane and her husband live in Omaha and are refusing to age gracefully.

Jenny Fleming

Jenny Fleming

Step Up to Quality Quality Specialist

Jenny coordinates observations for programs ready for a rating review in Step Up to Quality. She organizes all aspects of training for program assessments and assists programs with Environment Rating Scales (ERS) and Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) questions.

Jenny received her bachelor’s in early childhood education from Wayne State College. She has experience as an assistant director and director in early childhood programs and many years of teaching experience with infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Jenny is passionate about creating environments where all children can thrive as individuals while being given equal opportunity to learn from nurturing role models.

Jenny’s proudest accomplishment is earning the title of mom to two children.

Lynne Cook

Lynne Cook

Step Up to Quality Coach Specialist

Lynne is responsible for the recruitment, training, development and assignment of Step Up to Quality coaches. She helps child care programs understand the benefits of coaching and matches them with a coach to help them on their path to quality.

Lynne is a native Nebraskan but has had the opportunity to travel the world as a military spouse — which has provided her with a variety of rich early childhood experiences. She received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood educational studies from Empire State in New York.

Lynne’s experience includes a wide variety of early childhood roles, including family home care provider, lead teacher, preschool teacher, home visitor and Early Head Start supervisor. Lynne is passionate about high quality education for all children and wants caregivers to understand the incredible impact they can make on a child’s life.

Lynne and her husband are proud parents of four children and reside in Lincoln where they enjoy family, friends and Husker ballgames! GO BIG RED!

Ann Adams

Ann Adams

Early Childhood, Program Associate

Ann is the social media guru for the Office of Early Childhood. She also assists with the development of the Nebraska Early Childhood Professional Record System (NECPRS).

Ann started her work for the Nebraska Department of Education as the Program Coordinator for Step Up to Quality. She is looking forward to broadening the communication efforts of the department and spreading the word about early childhood in Nebraska.

In her free time, Ann enjoys spending quality time with her husband and cat. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Lauri Cimino

Lauri Cimino

Step Up to Quality Director

Lauri has been working in early childhood education for three decades, joining the Nebraska Department of Education, Office of Early Childhood in 2014. She is a Nebraska native and received her education degree from the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Lauri has served in a wide range of early childhood roles, from teacher to assistant director to director to regional director and regional manager. She’s worked in public schools, nonprofits, federal government programs and corporate child development centers.

Lauri has a passion for creating and fostering environments where children and families, and those caring for children and families, can develop to their full potential. Her favorite role is that of “Nana” to her four young granddaughters.

As director of Step Up to Quality, Lauri is excited about the new awareness being brought to the important work of teachers, administrators and family child care providers across the state, who are preparing our next generation of children for school and life.

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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 Record 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 February 1, 2019. Once received, the eligible staff member can submit their claim to the Department of Revenue when filing their income tax return.

Classification Levels Chart

Points Tax Credit
Level 1 All Base Requirements $500
Level 2 7 – 9 Points $750
Level 3 10 – 12 Points $1,250
Level 4 13 – 15 Points $1,500

Point Determination

Education Points
CDA or one-year certificate/diploma in Early Childhood Education or Child Development Base Requirement
Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education/Child Development 3 Points
Bachelor’s Degree or above in a related field** 4 Points
Bachelor’s Degree or above in Early Childhood Education or Child Development 5 Points
Training Points
12 clock hours of NDE verified/approved training Base Requirement
15 clock hours of NDE verified/approved training 3 Points
24 clock hours of NDE verified/approved training 4 Points
30 clock hours of NDE verified/approved training 5 Points
Work Experience Points
At least 6 months of employment in an eligible program* during the tax year Base 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.


Education Early Childhood Teach with CDA Base
Training 24 hours of training 4 Points
Work Experience 3 years of experience
(including 6 months base requirement)
5 Points
Total 9 Points
Level Level 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.



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.


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
  • Licensed 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!