Educational Administration, Department of


First Advisor

Marilyn Grady

Date of this Version



Stauffer, B. (2018). Perspectives of Rural Nebraska Community Leaders on Pre-Kindergarten in Public Schools (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from UNL DigitalCommons.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Education, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor Marilyn Grady. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2018

Copyright (c) 2018 Bradley G. Stauffer


The investigator in this study explored perspectives of rural Nebraska community leaders on pre-kindergarten in public schools. Thirty rural Nebraska community leaders were interviewed, 10 from each of three different communities ranging in population from around 1,000 to 2,500. For this qualitative study, the investigator asked two primary research questions related to the impact of pre-kindergarten on:

  1. Child development
  2. Community development

Six main themes were derived from the interviews:

  1. Child Development
  2. Community Development
  3. Changes in the Family and Society
  4. Funding
  5. Equity
  6. Educating the Community

The literature review focused on the efficacy of pre-kindergarten and early childhood education. Three seminal research studies set the standard and gave the field some of the first evidence that comprehensive early childhood education can make a big impact on the trajectory of disadvantaged children. Results of these landmark studies are significant and have helped guide public policy on early childhood for decades. These longitudinal studies showed significant benefits for school readiness, but perhaps more significant are the long-run benefits that provide a host of socio-economic benefits.

Rural Nebraska community leaders understood the value of these benefits for their children and their communities. They were unanimous in their support of pre-kindergarten programs.

Funding pre-K was the biggest challenge for local school districts and communities. Because of a reluctance to further burden tax payers, leaders felt alternative revenue sources would be needed to start and sustain high-quality pre-K for all children. With a preference for public-private partnerships, community leaders believed funding high-quality early childhood education and care was ultimately a local responsibility.

Interview participants said their communities lacked local leadership and expertise to get early childhood initiatives off the ground. A recommendation offered by the investigator is a public relations process that emphasizes public participation strategies. Another recommendation is employment of an individual who can assist rural communities with planning, organization and support. This role would be similar in approach to those found through cooperative extension programs and would be funded in the spirit of public-private partnerships.

Adviser: Marilyn Grady