(1) The Legislature finds and declares that: (a) Early childhood education programs can assist children in achieving their potential as citizens, workers, and human beings and can strengthen families; (b) early childhood education has been proven to be a sound public investment of funds not only in assuring productive, taxpaying workers in the economy but also in avoidance of increasingly expensive social costs for those who drop out as productive members of society; (c) the key ingredient in an effective early childhood education program is a strong family development and support component because the role of the parent is of critical importance; (d) while all children can benefit from quality, developmentally appropriate early childhood education experiences, such experiences are especially important for at-risk infants and children; (e) current early childhood education programs serve only a fraction of Nebraska's children and the quality of current programs varies widely; (f) well-designed early childhood education programs increase the likelihood that children who participate will enter school prepared to achieve high standards; (g) effective early childhood education programs require staff with knowledge about child growth, development, and learning and family systems; and (h) both public and nonpublic programs which meet recognized standards of quality can address the growth, development, and learning needs of young children.
(2)(a) It is the intent of the Legislature and the public policy of this state to encourage schools and community-based organizations to work together to provide high-quality early childhood education programs for infants and young children which include family involvement, with the goal of assuring that every family in Nebraska has access to such programs for, at the minimum, the school year prior to the school year for which the child will be eligible to attend kindergarten. The purposes of sections 79-1101 to 79-1104.05 are to provide state assistance to selected school districts, cooperatives of school districts, and educational service units for early childhood education, to encourage coordination between public and private service providers of early childhood education and child care programs, and to provide state support for efforts to improve training opportunities for staff in such programs.
(b) It is the further intent of the Legislature that any additional funds appropriated on or after January 1, 2014, for FY2014-15 for early childhood education grants pursuant to section 79-1103 be used to assist schools and community-based organizations in working together to expand the access to such high-quality early childhood education programs for children for the school year prior to the school year for which the child will be eligible to attend kindergarten and that the unobligated balance of any such funds be reappropriated for such purpose for FY2015-16 and FY2016-17.
(3) For purposes of sections 79-1101 to 79-1104.05:
(a) Board of trustees means the Early Childhood Education Endowment Board of Trustees;
(b) Early childhood education program means any prekindergarten part-day or full-day program or in-home family support program with a stated purpose of promoting social, emotional, intellectual, language, physical, and aesthetic development and learning for children from birth to kindergarten-entrance age and family development and support;
(c) Endowment agreement means an agreement between the State Department of Education and an endowment provider entered into pursuant to section 79-1104.01; and
(d) Endowment provider means an endowment that has met the criteria described in section 79-1104.01 and that has entered into an endowment agreement.