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 three 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.
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
|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|
|CDA or one-year certificate/diploma in Early Childhood Education or Child Development||Base Requirement|
|Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education||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|
|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|
|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)
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
To pre-register for an online orientation session, please complete this form.
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
- Complete orientation
- Complete program application
- Enter director and staff into professional record system
- 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
- Complete observation tool training
- Develop quality action plans
- Complete and submit the Rating Readiness Tool
- Earn points based on quality standards
*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
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.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for Families
- Nebraska Library Commission
- Public Broadcasting Services (PBS)
- Nebraska Extension – Early Childhood Development
- Nebraska Early Development Network
- DHHS Child Care Licensing Info for Parents
- American Academy of Pediatrics’ HealthyChildren.org
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
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 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:
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
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.