Jessie Rasmussen, Buffet Early Childhood Fund

TITLE: President

FUNDING AREAS: Early childhood education ages 0 to 5

CONTACT: jr@buffettearly.org, (402) 342-2052

IP TAKE: Over a four-decade career, Jessie Rasmussen has remained staunchly focused on child protection, safety, and education. 

PROFILE: Rasmussen is President of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, an organization she joined in 2007. Since its founding in 2005, the fund has invested approximately $150 million in early childhood practice, policy and research.

Before joining the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Rasmussen spent the first two decades of her career as an early childhood educator and administrator. From there, she moved into the government sector, first as a Nebraska State Senator, then as Human Services Director for both Nebraska and Iowa. Rasmussen also served as a policy director at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. Rasmussen is a Board Member of Educare of Washington DC, where her biography also highlights her key role in the passage of Nebraskan legislation establishing a $60 million early childhood endowment funded through a public and private partnership.

While Director of the Department of Human Services, Rasmussen dealt with some serious issues and adversity. In 2002, a mother named Lori Teska sued her after a social services dispute, claiming that Rasmussen did not properly train personnel working under her. The court vindicated Rasmussen, but the incident certainly seems to have impacted upon her. In a 2009 hearing in front of the House Labor and Education Committee, Rasmussen emphasized the importance of professional development. "As we talk more and more about the importance of the early learning in the first five years and understanding child development. . . we need to get more and more people who are trained in that body of knowledge," she stated in that hearing. In that same address, she also stated bilingualism, especially in Spanish, as a key skill that childhood care professionals should possess. Rasmussen also discusses the need for teachers and officials working in related fields to erase the differentiation between the concepts of "childcare" and "early education," as they ought to operate as a seamless and unified environment of support for children.

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