RIght from the Start

December 2, 2019

RIght from the Start is a legislative and budget campaign to advance state policies for young children and their families in Rhode Island. During the COVID-19 crisis, it has become even more clear that policies and programs that help families with young children are essential for a strong economy and public health. Investments now will help our state and Rhode Island’s young children and families weather this crisis and emerge stronger on the other side.

RIght Start FY 2024 State Budget Priorities

December 2, 2022

Governor Dan McKee’s FY 2023 state budget included transformative investments in our children, families, and Rhode Island’s early education system. From Cover All Kids, to extending postpartum Medicaid coverage for new moms, to significant funds to support our child care programs, these investments, ultimately enacted into law, amounted to the boldest child care plan proposed by a governor in at least 20 years.

For FY 2024, the Right from the Start campaign is urging Governor McKee (view our letter here) to adopt a series of budget investments that will continue our momentum and help to ensure that Rhode Island is an affordable and great place to raise a family, where all children get off to the right start in life, regardless of family income, race, ethnicity, immigration status, or zip code.

FY 2024 State Budget Priorities

Child Care: The Rhode Island 2030 plan mentions child care 41 times stating that “even before the pandemic, the child care system was not meeting the needs of families.” Your RI 2030 plan calls for increased public investments in the RI Child Care Assistance Program to ensure that families can find high-quality, affordable care by focusing on ensuring provider payment rates cover the true cost of quality care and family eligibility is expanded so that all families at or below the RI median income have access to financial supports for child care. Affordable high-quality child care from infancy through school-age sets children up for success in school and life and helps families earn a living.

We urge you to:

  • Help child care programs pay better wages to attract and retain qualified educators by increasing the base provider rates for the RI Child Care Assistance Program to the federal equal access standard (75th percentile of the most recent market rate survey) and provide additional tiered increases to help programs reach and maintain quality standards.
  • Help more families qualify for the RI Child Care Assistance Program by lifting the family- income entrance and exit eligibility to 85% of the State Median Income, the federal standard for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (in Rhode Island this is about 350% FPL), so that more families can qualify for the RI Child Care Assistance Program.
  • Remove the outdated requirement for families to establish paternity/parentage and file for child support to be eligible for the RI Child Care Assistance Program, a barrier that does not exist for any other early childhood program and one that only a handful of other states impose.
  • Provide enhanced rates to child care programs that serve infants under 18 months to account for the significantly higher staffing costs compared to toddler care and address the severe shortage of infant care ($132/week – $150/week per infant on top of the infant/toddler rate).
  • Restore $48 million in state general revenue funding that was cut from the RI Child Care Assistance Program in the mid-2000s. Rhode Island currently invests only the minimum state match and maintenance of effort required by the federal government.

Early Educator Investment: The Rhode Island 2030 plan includes a goal to reduce enduring inequities throughout Rhode Island’s economy including the disparate levels of unemployment, wages, wealth, and business ownership by race, ethnicity, and gender. The workforce that supports young children’s early learning and development which is made up almost exclusively of women – and disproportionally women of color — is in crisis. This crisis that is negatively affecting families, children’s learning and development, and our state’s economy. Child care and preschool educator wages are among the lowest in the state @ $13.26 per hour for child care and @ $14.08 per hour for preschool – in the same range or lower than fast food workers, dishwashers, laundry workers, animal caretakers, and retail sales workers.

We urge you to:

  • Establish statewide compensation goals for early childhood educators as a strategy to meet your goal of increasing per capita income, to ensure early childhood professionals earn a living wage, and to recognize the value of the role they play in supporting the development and learning of children.
  • Continue and expand strategies that help early childhood programs attract, develop, and retain qualified staff – including retention bonuses and the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Workforce Development Program.
  • Establish and fund the Child Care WAGE$ program in Rhode Island as a companion to the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood program with a focus on retaining qualified infant/toddler child care educators.

RI Pre-K and Head Start: The Rhode Island 2030 plan calls for universal, high-quality, voluntary Pre-K for all children ages 3 and 4 through a mixed delivery system, including Head Start, child care, and public schools. There are 40 RI Pre-K classrooms and 800 seats for four-year-olds at risk of permanent closure when federal funding expires in the summer of 2023. As of December 2022, there are at least 30 Head Start classrooms and at least 9 Early Head Start classrooms closed due to a worsening staffing crisis caused by low, non-competitive wages. These Head Start classrooms normally provide high-quality preschool and comprehensive support services to approximately 540 three- and four-year-old children and high-quality care and enriching learning opportunities for approximately 72 infants and toddlers from low-income families. These Early Head Start and Head Start classrooms are at immediate risk of permanent closure unless state investments are made to increase educator wages and sustain these programs.

We urge you to:

  • Restore state funding to Head Start programs that was cut in 2008 and invest additional state funds to supplement federal resources to ensure all current Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms can be staffed and qualified teachers are paid competitive wages at parity with RI Pre-K and K-12 teachers.
  • Invest funds sufficient to sustain all RI Pre-K classrooms and to adjust compensation so that all RI Pre-K teachers receive compensation at parity with K-12 teachers.
  • As Rhode Island works to expand access to preschool for children ages three and four, maintain the diverse delivery system, ensure compensation parity for all RI Pre-K and Head Start teachers, invest at least 33% of any new state Pre-K expansion funds to sustain and strengthen infant/toddler programs, remove geographic boundaries for preschool enrollment to maximize options for families, and include high-quality family child care programs.

First Connections Voluntary Family Home Visiting: The Rhode Island 2030 plan includes a goal to make the Family Home Visiting First Connections program universally available. Both Oregon and New Jersey offer universal, voluntary home visiting for all families of newborns. Connecticut and several other states are working towards a goal of universal home visiting. Rhode Island’s First Connections program is designed to reach at least 60% of newborns but only reached 34% in 2021 due to a staffing crisis.

We urge you to:

  • Make the temporary Medicaid rate increase for First Connections permanent and ensure programs can offer competitive compensation to retain qualified and effective staff including nurses, social workers, and community health workers.

Paid Family Leave: Decades of scientific evidence demonstrate the importance of paid family leave for healthy child development, maternal health, and family economic security. Paid family leave is also widely popular among voters. Rhode Island has been a leader in establishing a paid family leave program in 2013, but we have now fallen behind 11 other states – including neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts – by offering the lowest wage replacement rate and fewest number of weeks of leave. Improving our paid family leave program to meet national standards is an essential investment for Rhode Island to become a great state to raise a family.

We urge you to:

  • Increase the wage replacement level to match our neighboring states so all parents, and especially lower wage-earning parents, can have adequate income to stay home and care for newborns, adoptive, and foster children.
  • Expand the number of weeks offered to families to meet or exceed our neighboring states – at least 12 weeks for each parent/caregiver.

Children’s Health: The Rhode Island 2030 plan includes a goal of expanding and enhancing health insurance to cover all children to provide universal access to routine and acute health care. The state made huge progress in 2022 by restoring Medicaid coverage to all children regardless of immigration status. Rhode Island has not yet joined 24 other states by adopting 12-month continuous Medicaid eligibility for children. In October 2022, Oregon became the first state to offer continuous eligibility for all children under age 6 so babies and young children have access to routine and acute health care, including essential screenings. Washington, California, and New Mexico and other states are expected to adopt this policy soon.

We urge you to:

  • Join 24 states in adopting 12-month continuous Medicaid eligibility for all children.
  • Maintain Rhode Island’s leadership position for health care access by adopting continuous Medicaid eligibility for all children under age 6 through a federal waiver.

End Deep Child Poverty: The Rhode Island 2030 plan sets a goal of decreasing childhood poverty by investing in RI Works. The state made huge progress in 2022 by increasing the cash assistance benefit for the first time in 30 years and improving other program policies. Thousands of children under age 6 rely on RI Works cash assistance to help meet their basic needs.

We urge you to:

  • Adopt policies recommended by the Raising Rhode Island Coalition, including updating the benefit annually to ensure children who rely on the cash benefit do not live in deep poverty (at or above 50% of FPL), repealing the full family sanction, allowing pregnant women to receive support earlier, and restore eligibility to legal permanent residents.

Revenue for RI: We urge you to implement equitable tax strategies to ensure Rhode Island has sufficient state general revenue to provide access to services and programs young children need to thrive.

5 Things To Include In Rhode Island’s Pre-K Expansion Plan

November 9, 2022

We’re thrilled that the Rhode Island Department of Education, Rhode Island Department of Human Services, and the Children’s Cabinet are developing a plan to expand access to high-quality, publicly funded preschool for three- and four-year-olds through child care programs, Head Start, and public schools!  Here are 5 key things to include in Rhode Island’s Pre-K expansion plan due to the Governor and General Assembly leaders by December 31, 2022:

  1. Start with Head Start:  Restore state funding for Head Start that was cut in 2008 and ensure Head Start can offer teachers for 3s and 4s compensation that meets K-12 parity so they can reopen closed classrooms.  Then continue to invest in Head Start as a proven model with significant federal support as part of the Rhode Island plan to provide high-quality public preschool to all 3s and 4s to include ensuring that all Head Start teachers have wage parity.
  2. Establish Infant/Toddler Funding Benchmarks Connected to Preschool Expansion: As state general revenue increases for preschool, the state should be required to allocate at least 33% of the new preschool funding to directly support access to high-quality infant/toddler learning programs (specifically, high-quality child care, Early Head Start, family home visiting, and Early Intervention)
  3. B-5 Compensation Parity:  We need compensation parity for the entire B-5 workforce so that comparably qualified and effective educators are paid the same – not just in RI Pre-K (which is struggling to meet parity standards anyway).
  4. Include Family Child Care: Good to see the strong commitment to maintain diverse delivery system with public schools,  child care centers and Head Start agencies.  We need to make investments now to support family child care systems so licensed family child care providers can work towards meeting high-quality standards, including BA degrees, and be eligible for RI Pre-K and Head Start partnership grants.
  5. Remove Geographic Restrictions:  For decades early childhood programs in Rhode Island have accepted children across city/town lines.  We need to remove all city/town geographic restrictions from RI Pre-K and we need to expand access and share regional responsibility for identifying preschool age children who need special education services and for delivering high-quality preschool special education services to children enrolled in community-based Head Start and child care programs, regardless of the geographic residence of the child.

Rhode Island Foundation Supports RIght from the Start Campaign’s Advocacy Efforts With Grant

October 26, 2022

We’re thrilled to share that the Rhode Island Foundation has awarded the RIght from the Start campaign grant funding to continue our work on behalf of Rhode Island’s young children (0-5) and their families. A huge thank you to the Rhode Island Foundation for supporting our work!

RIght Start Draft 2023 Policy & Budget Priorities

October 25, 2022

At the RIght from the Start campaign we’re already gearing up for the 2023 Rhode Island General Assembly session. Below are our draft 2023 policy and budget priorities designed to ensure that ALL Rhode Island kids, regardless of zip code, race, ethnicity, or family income, get off to the right start in life!

We’d love to hear your feedback and ideas as we finalize these policy and budget priorities, so please email us at info@rightfromthestartri.org.

Child Care is Essential

  • Help more families access reliable, affordable child care through the Rhode Island Child Care Assistance Program by expanding family eligibility to at least 250% of the federal poverty level at the entrance ($57,575 for a family of three) – an eligibility level that was enacted in the 1998 RI Starting Right law – and up to at least 350% of the federal poverty line at the exit ($80,605 for a family of three), so all families with income at or below the current federal eligibility benchmark can get help paying for child care. Nine out of 10 families in Rhode Island cannot afford the cost of care. High-quality, affordable, and reliable child care is needed for a successful state economy.
  • Increase provider rates for all ages of children in all settings so they meet or exceed the federal equal access standard. Low rates restrict access to safe, high-quality care.
  • Remove the outdated requirement for families to establish paternity/parentage and file for child support to be eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program, a requirement only a handful of states impose.
  • Pay providers based on child enrollment (not attendance), a practice common in the private market that will help improve the financial stability of child care programs.

Early Educator Investment

  • Establish compensation benchmarks for early educators statewide and develop a plan to increase rates and funding to programs so they can pay more competitive wages to staff and recruit/retain highly-skilled educators that reflect the diversity of the child population.
  • Continue wage supplements for child care educators and establish a progressive wage supplement model like the Child Care WAGE$ program to provide additional resources to help keep skilled educators working with our youngest children and in our most challenged communities. Child care educators in Rhode Island earn close to the minimum wage.

RI Pre-K & Head Start

  • Restore state funding to provide Head Start to at least 400 low-income three- and four-year old children statewide. State funding for Head Start was significantly reduced in 2008. Head Start is the foundation of Rhode Island’s high-quality Pre-K system.
  • Ensure that all current RI Pre-K seats for FY24 are sustained in the 2023-2024 school year. There are 800 RI Pre-K seats/40 RI Pre-K classrooms at risk of closure when federal funding expires in the summer of 2023.
    • Begin expanding RI Pre-K in diverse delivery settings (child care, Head Start, and public schools) while maintaining research-based quality standards to reach at least 5,000 3- and 4-year-olds statewide by 2028.
    • Invest at least 33% of new, expansion funds in infant/toddler early care and education programs so they can provide high-quality early learning opportunities and services are not displaced as Pre-K grows.
    • Ensure all early educators serving children from birth through age 5, including Head Start, RI Pre-K, and child care have compensation parity with similarly qualified public K-12 educators.
    • Ensure family child care programs can be included in the high-quality RI Pre-K delivery system.

Paid Family Leave/Temporary Caregivers Insurance

  • Increase the Temporary Caregivers Insurance wage replacement rates during leave for all beneficiaries, but particularly for individuals with low wage jobs, so that all eligible families can afford to take leave when needed. At approximately 60% of wages, Rhode Island has the lowest wage replacement rate in the U.S, and is lower than wage replacement for low-wage workers in both Massachusetts (95%) and Connecticut (80%)
  • Extend Temporary Caregivers Insurance to cover at least 12 weeks, the minimum recommended length of leave to care for newborns, adoptive, and foster children. At 6 weeks starting in January 2023, Rhode Island has the fewest number of weeks in the U.S., lower than both Massachusetts and Connecticut that provide 12 weeks.

Early Intervention & Preschool Special Education

  • Ensure recent rate increases are adequate to recruit and retain qualified staff in Early Intervention and monitor the 650+ infants and toddlers currently on the waiting list to ensure they receive services as quickly as possible and the waiting list is eliminated.
  • Significantly increase the percentage of young children who receive Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education to reach levels experts suggest are appropriate. Launch and sustain a multi-lingual public awareness and outreach campaign with a multi-lingual helpline to help families access services.
  • Design and fund a workforce development pipeline to help bilingual people and people of color earn degrees, credentials, and professional licenses to provide Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education services.
  • Provide more flexibility for families to access Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education including non-traditional hours and expand access to preschool special education service delivery in community-based early childhood programs, both inside and outside of district borders.

First Connections

  • Permanently increase Medicaid rates for First Connections home visiting so programs can recruit/retain skilled nurses, social workers, and community health workers to reach at least 60% of all babies born each year and help families connect to essential services, including Early Intervention.

Maternal & Child Health and Mental Wellness

  • Adopt at least 12-month continuous RIte Care/Medicaid eligibility for children through the existing federal option, like 24 other states have done, to stabilize access to health care and mental health care by reducing administrative churn. Consider following in the footsteps of Washington and Oregon by pursuing continuous Medicaid eligibility for young children through age six. Approximately 50% of babies and young children in RI have RIte Care/Medicaid insurance.

Revenue

  • Increase state general revenue through equitable strategies to provide sustained and expanded access to services and programs young children need to thrive, including high-quality child care, Pre-K, Early Intervention, family home visiting, and RIte Care health insurance coverage.

RIght from the Start Campaign Urges Rhode Island to Apply for PDG Birth to Five Federal Grant to Better Coordinate Early Care & Learning Programs

September 28, 2022

The RIght from the Start Campaign Steering Committee would like to urge Rhode Island leaders to submit an application for the newly announced PDG Birth to 5 Planning Grant opportunity.  We know there is a planned discussion about the opportunity at Wednesday’s Children’s Cabinet meeting and would like to offer our ideas, support, and help to complete a competitive application. Attached and below is information about the opportunity and key early childhood workforce priorities in Rhode Island. 

The Opportunity: Rhode Island is eligible to apply for a federal PDG Birth to Five grant to update our state’s existing Early Care and Education plan and to make investments in infrastructure and pilot programs. The federal funding opportunity emphasizes the need to make investments in the early care and education workforce and to develop and expand systems that help attract, prepare, support, and retain a qualified, diverse workforce across settings serving babies and young children from birth through age five. Rhode Island, along with 26 other states, is eligible to apply for a grant totaling up to $4 million. Ten grants will be awarded. The application is due on November 7, 2022, and the awards will be with awarded projects to start on December 30, 2022.

Some of the suggestions for grant applications include:

  • Compensation initiatives, studies, and analysis to move early childhood staff, including center-based and family child care providers, Directors, and family child care owners, topay parity based on experience and credentials, including wages and benefits in line with elementary educators.
  • Provision of ongoing practice-based mentoring, coaching, and professional development to address the needs and improve the effectiveness of the PDG B-5 workforce, as the state works on developing its proposed approaches to improving outcomes for children and families.
  • Access to scholarships and other resources, including substitute pools, transportation subsidies, child care, and place-based programs, to help access credentials and degrees.
  • Consideration of how best to support the career development and improve the training and experience of providers (including school-based, center-based, and family child care providers) across the mixed delivery system, including those serving infants and toddlers.
  • Provision of health supports, including mental health, for the early childhood workforce.

Current Rhode Island Context: In 2022, Rhode Island made significant progress towards stabilizing the early childhood program workforce by increasing rates and expanding funding for the Child Care Assistance Program and for the Early Intervention program. In addition, in 2022, Rhode Island allocated funding to develop an early educator registry, expand our T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood workforce development program, and to provide $3,000/year pandemic retention bonuses to frontline staff working in licensed child care centers and family child care homes.

As part of a Pre-K expansion plan due in December 2022, the General Assembly also required the state to develop a plan to prepare, recruit, and retain a highly qualified early childhood workforce, including adequate wages for early childhood educators regardless of setting.

The RIght from the Start Campaign has been working with leaders in the Rhode Island General Assembly to pass the Rhode Island Early Educator Investment Act (Senator Cano, Rep. Casimiro) to address the challenges Child Care, Pre-K, Head Start/Early Head Start, Early Intervention, and Family Home Visiting programs face in recruiting and retaining a highly-qualified workforce.  Our goals include:

  • Establishing compensation benchmarks for early educators statewide with parity to comparably qualified K-12 educators and staff.
  • Using the compensation benchmarks to increase rates and funding to programs so they can pay competitive wages to staff and recruit/retain highly-skilled educators that reflect the diversity of the child population.
  • Continue wage supplements for early care and education staff since the median wage for a child care educator is $13.26/hour and $14.08/hour for preschool educator.
  • Establish a progressive wage supplement model like the Child Care WAGE$ program implemented in other states to help keep skilled educators working with babies and young children.
  • Remove systemic barriers in the higher education system that delay and prevent early educators from earning degrees and credentials while working in the field.
  • Continue to invest in the Rhode Island T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood workforce development program. 

In addition, the RIght from the Start Campaign has adopted Early Childhood IDEA advocacy priorities developed by a task force that centered the perspectives of parents who have young children with developmental challenges. These advocacy priorities include:

  • Design and fund a workforce development pipeline to help bilingual people and people of color earn degrees, credentials, and professional licenses needed to provide Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education services.

ZERO TO THREE Case Study Highlight’s RIght from the Start and our work on behalf of Rhode Island’s young children and families

September 1, 2022

Our national partner ZERO TO THREE has put together a great overview of our work at RIght from the Start advocating for policies, legislation, and investments to improve the lives of Rhode Island’s young children and their families. Read the full case study here. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made and we thank ZERO TO THREE for their support!

Gubernatorial Candidates Talk Early Childhood Priorities at Children’s Friend/RIght Start Forum 

August 24, 2022

On August 23rd, we partnered with Children’s Friend to host a great conversation about early childhood policy issues and investments with Rhode Island’s gubernatorial candidates. You can watch the full forum here (En español) and see below for news coverage of the event.

Gubernatorial candidates partake in forum on early childhood issues, ABC 6

Candidates for governor focus on Rhode Island’s youngest children at forum, NBC 10

Candidates for RI governor tackle questions focused on children, Uprise RI

Improving Access to High-Quality Early Intervention & Preschool Special Education Services in Rhode Island

August 10, 2022

In 2021 and 2022, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT and Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE) co-chaired a planning process to identify priorities to improve access to high-quality Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education in Rhode Island. The planning team centered the voices of parents of young children with special needs that live in the four core cities and focused on identifying priorities that would improve equity. In June 2022, the planning team finalized an initial list of advocacy priorities, outlined in the attached infographics (English and Spanish).

We are still celebrating the big win this year for Early Intervention with a permanent 45% Medicaid rate increase passing in the FY23 budget and second year of ARPA stabilization funds allocated. But we still need to keep a close eye on Early Intervention to make sure the funding is enough to restore staffing to appropriate levels so the 650+ infants and toddlers currently on the waiting list can receive services as soon as possible and hopefully soon there will be no waiting list.

The RIght from the Start Campaign has incorporated these advocacy priorities into its list of emerging priorities for the state’s FY24 budget and for the 2023 legislative session. We are planning to continue our work advocating with and for families and young children – so more families are aware of the early childhood IDEA services that are available, and we can increase the percent of children who receive high-quality, developmentally-appropriate, and family-responsive Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education.

Download the full list of Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education in Rhode Island advocacy priorities.
Descargue la lista completa de las prioridades de defensa de la Intervención Temprana y la Educación Especial Preescolar en Rhode Island.

RIght Start Candidate Guide: Rhode Island Early Childhood Policy Priorities

August 5, 2022

En español

Dear candidates for office:

RIght from the Start is sharing the following information to help educate candidates for elected office about policy and budget priorities that will help families with young children in Rhode Island. We are providing the same information to all candidates for Governor. We are not able to endorse any candidates, but hope you find this information helpful.

Thank you for running. Families with young children need strong champions in elected office!

Sincerely,
RIght from the Start

Download our full 2022 candidate guide

Child Care is Essential

  • Help more families access reliable, affordable child care through the Rhode Island Child Care Assistance Program by expanding family eligibility to at least 250% of the federal poverty level at the entrance ($57,575 for a family of three) – an eligibility level that was enacted in the 1998 RI Starting Right law – and up to at least 350% of the federal poverty line at the exit ($80,605 for a family of three), so all families with income at or below the current federal eligibility benchmark can get help paying for child care. Nine out of 10 families in Rhode Island cannot afford the cost of care. High-quality, affordable, and reliable child care is needed for a successful state economy.
  • Increase provider rates for all ages of children in all settings so they meet or exceed the federal equal access standard. Low rates restrict access to safe, high-quality care.
  • Remove the outdated requirement for families to establish paternity/parentage and file for child support to be eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program, a requirement only a handful of states impose.
  • Pay providers based on child enrollment (not attendance), a practice common in the private market that will help improve the financial stability of child care programs.

Early Educator Investment

  • Establish compensation benchmarks for early educators statewide and develop a plan to increase rates and funding to programs so they can pay more competitive wages to staff and recruit/retain highly-skilled educators that reflect the diversity of the child population.
  • Continue wage supplements for child care educators and establish a progressive wage supplement model like the Child Care WAGE$ program to provide additional resources to help keep skilled educators working with our youngest children and in our most challenged communities. Child care educators in Rhode Island earn close to the minimum wage.

RI Pre-K & Head Start

  • Restore state funding to provide Head Start to at least 400 low-income three- and four-year old children statewide. State funding for Head Start was significantly reduced in 2008. Head Start is the foundation of Rhode Island’s high-quality Pre-K system.
  • Ensure that all current RI Pre-K seats for FY24 are sustained in the 2023-2024 school year. There are 800 RI Pre-K seats/40 RI Pre-K classrooms at risk of closure when federal funding expires in the summer of 2023.
    • Begin expanding RI Pre-K in diverse delivery settings (child care, Head Start, and public schools) while maintaining research-based quality standards to reach at least 5,000 3- and 4-year-olds statewide by 2028.
    • Invest at least 33% of new, expansion funds in infant/toddler early care and education programs so they can provide high-quality early learning opportunities and services are not displaced as Pre-K grows.
    • Ensure all early educators serving children from birth through age 5, including Head Start, RI Pre-K, and child care have compensation parity with similarly qualified public K-12 educators.
    • Ensure family child care programs can be included in the high-quality RI Pre-K delivery system.

Paid Family Leave/Temporary Caregivers Insurance

  • Increase the Temporary Caregivers Insurance wage replacement rates during leave for all beneficiaries, but particularly for individuals with low wage jobs, so that all eligible families can afford to take leave when needed. At approximately 60% of wages, Rhode Island has the lowest wage replacement rate in the U.S, and is lower than wage replacement for low-wage workers in both Massachusetts (95%) and Connecticut (80%)
  • Extend Temporary Caregivers Insurance to cover at least 12 weeks, the minimum recommended length of leave to care for newborns, adoptive, and foster children. At 6 weeks starting in January 2023, Rhode Island has the fewest number of weeks in the U.S., lower than both Massachusetts and Connecticut that provide 12 weeks.

Early Intervention & Preschool Special Education

  • Ensure recent rate increases are adequate to recruit and retain qualified staff in Early Intervention and monitor the 650+ infants and toddlers currently on the waiting list to ensure they receive services as quickly as possible and the waiting list is eliminated.
  • Significantly increase the percentage of young children who receive Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education to reach levels experts suggest are appropriate. Launch and sustain a multi-lingual public awareness and outreach campaign with a multi-lingual helpline to help families access services.
  • Design and fund a workforce development pipeline to help bilingual people and people of color earn degrees, credentials, and professional licenses to provide Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education services.
  • Provide more flexibility for families to access Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education including non-traditional hours and expand access to preschool special education service delivery in community-based early childhood programs, both inside and outside of district borders.

First Connections

  • Permanently increase Medicaid rates for First Connections home visiting so programs can recruit/retain skilled nurses, social workers, and community health workers to reach at least 60% of all babies born each year and help families connect to essential services, including Early Intervention.

Maternal & Child Health and Mental Wellness

  • Adopt at least 12-month continuous RIte Care/Medicaid eligibility for children through the existing federal option, like 24 other states have done, to stabilize access to health care and mental health care by reducing administrative churn. Consider following in the footsteps of Washington and Oregon by pursuing continuous Medicaid eligibility for young children through age six. Approximately 50% of babies and young children in RI have RIte Care/Medicaid insurance.

Revenue

  • Increase state general revenue through equitable strategies to provide sustained and expanded access to services and programs young children need to thrive, including high-quality child care, Pre-K, Early Intervention, family home visiting, and RIte Care health insurance coverage.

About RIght from the Start
RIght from the Start is a legislative and budget campaign led by eight organizations to advance equitable state policies for babies, young children, and families in Rhode Island. While we have made significant progress recently, more policy reforms and investments are needed to ensure all young children, regardless of race, ethnicity, family income, or zip code get off to the right start in life!

RI Gubernatorial Candidates’ Early Childhood Policy Forum – August 23rd

August 4, 2022

What will our next Governor do to ensure the well-being of our youngest children? Join us and Children’s Friend on August 23rd at 10am for a RI Gubernatorial Candidates’ Early Childhood Policy Forum! Register here.