Helen and Ron Raikes honored with Abbott Award

Helen and the late Ron Raikes will be honored with the Grace Abbott Award Oct. 10.

Helen and Ron Raikes honored with Abbott Award

28 Sep 2017    

Helen Raikes, Willa Cather Professor of Child, Youth and Family Studies (CYAF), and her late husband, former Nebraska State Senator Ron Raikes, will be recognized Oct. 10 with the Grace Abbott Award from the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. The honor will be presented at the Nebraska Children and Family Foundation's Changemakers luncheon at the Embassy Suites in La Vista, Nebraska.

The award honors the Raikes vision for the Sixpence Early Learning Fund, which for 10 years has brought high-quality early childhood education to vulnerable families in Nebraska. Helen and Ron worked hand in hand to fight for additional funding for early childhood education in Nebraska.

“Ron introduced legislation that put more money into school for pre-K programs,” Helen explains. “It created a provision for seasoned programs serving 4 year olds to receive funding from the state TEOSA [school finance] formula. After that got passed we said we needed funding for 0-3 and pregnant women and their families. However, there wasn’t money.”

Raikes said the education committee that Sen. Raikes chaired had to get creative about how to fund the age 0-3 programs. The committee proposed that the state tap the School Lands Fund for $40 million, but that still wasn’t enough funding. So, private funds had to be raised for a partial match—$20 million. The legislation passed, but use of the School Lands Fund required a constitutional referendum, which the public approved. There was yet more to the financial equation, as communities also had to match dollars to qualify.

In branding the Sixpence Early Learning Fund, they drew inspiration from the Mother Goose nursery rhyme, and the mathematical formula of two-sixth coming from the state, two-sixth from private funding and two-sixth by communities—totaling sixpence.

Helen has served on the Sixpence board for a decade and continues to fight for quality early childhood education. Her research in CYAF supports the convincing and growing body of evidence that documents the importance of quality early childhood care.

“It’s hard not to be convinced about the importance of the early years,” says Helen. “Everything that follows builds on these early beginnings. Children lacking the experiences [stimulation, nutrition, and emotional support] during these early years show up to kindergarten significantly behind their peers, and most studies show they do not catch up. Moreover, it seems most moral to remove barriers to give children a chance to fulfill their genetic potential. Shouldn’t every child have this opportunity?”


College of Education and Human Sciences
Child, Youth and Family Studies