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NASBE Honors Nebraska’s Buffett Early Childhood Institute with Friend of Education Award


Alexandria, VA—The Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska is being honored as the 2020 Friend of Education by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). This national award is given annually to an individual or organization whose contributions to preK-12 education are significant and enduring.

The Buffett Early Childhood Institute works with education partners to transform the lives of young children (birth through age 8) by implementing and supporting high-quality, evidence-based services, programs, and policies that support vulnerable young children and their families. Founded by current executive director Samuel J. Meisels, the Buffett Institute became operational in 2013 as a result of a shared vision between the University of Nebraska and philanthropist and early childhood education advocate Susie Buffett.

The Opportunity Gap, one of the Buffett Institute’s two signature programs, seeks to increase opportunities to learn and reduce or eliminate income- and race-based opportunity and achievement gaps for all children by the end of third grade. “Few efforts have been as influential as [the institute’s] work to close the opportunity gap,” said Nebraska State Board of Education Chair Maureen Nickels. This initiative also includes the Superintendents’ Early Childhood Plan, which has worked to connect young children and their families with vital services and supports at 11 Omaha-area school districts.

The second signature program is the Early Childhood Workforce Development Program, which confronts critical issues in the preparation, professional development, and commitment of the early learning workforce to inform and diversify the workforce for all young children. Following a three-year stakeholder-driven effort, the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission released recommendations and a roadmap in January 2020 for strengthening and supporting the early childhood workforce.

“We are grateful to NASBE for honoring the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska as the 2020 Friend of Education award winner,” said Samuel J. Meisels, founding executive director of the Buffett Institute. “We work each day to fulfill our vision to make Nebraska the best place in the nation to be a baby and are proud to collaborate with our many partners, including the Nebraska State Board of Education, to bring this vision to life for all of Nebraska’s children.”

“Ensuring our earliest learners have what they need to thrive is essential to long-term educational success,” says NASBE President and CEO Robert Hull. “The work of the Buffet Early Learning Institute, under the leadership Samuel J. Meisels, has brought important focus to early education in Nebraska and nationally, and we are proud to name the Institute our 2020 Friend of Education.”

This year’s Friend of Education Award will be presented at NASBE’s Virtual Annual Conference on October 21, 2020.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances.

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