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 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.

RIght from the Start Letter to Senators Reed & Whitehouse Urges Inclusion of Child Care Funding In Budget Reconciliation Package

July 15, 2022

Dear Senators Reed & Whitehouse:

I write to you on behalf of the RIght from the Start Campaign Steering Committee to express our disappointment in hearing the news that investments in child care and early learning may no longer being considered for part of the reconciliation package.  The scale of the child care problem isn’t one that families or providers can solve on their own and Rhode Island continues to decline to invest more state General Revenue.  More expanded and permanent federal investments are necessary to sustain and expand families access to affordable, reliable, high-quality child care. Leaving child care out of reconciliation means leaving families, children, and businesses behind.

This week, the First Five Years Fund (FFYF), National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and a coalition of 85 leading national organizations and even more state organizations, including all of us, sent a letter to you highlighting the urgent need to ensure the reconciliation package includes critical investments for child care.

We ask that you and Senator Whitehouse reach out to Senator Manchin to point out how important investments in child care are for families in both Rhode Island and West Virginia.  The federal funding cliff for child care detailed in the attached letter from West Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources to Senator Manchin will also occur in Rhode Island.  Neglecting to include child care in this package will just create more instability in state government. In addition, we ask you to implore Senate Majority Leader Schumer to reinstate an investment in child care within the reconciliation package.

We would also like to share testimony from your constituents collected since the COVID-19 pandemic. Robert Halley of West Warwick is a Program Administrator experiencing staffing shortages that cause waitlists for families in need of child care. These staffing shortages create dangerous situations for children, as described by Meagan Richards of Johnston. Estefany Ortiz, a family child care provider in Providence, struggles with low wages and stalled career goals. Kayla Arruda testified to her struggle to find qualified staff for the program she administers in North Providence; since publication, she herself left the field. Erin Thibealt  is a parent from East Providence that believes her positive (but expensive) experience with child care should be replicated for all families, regardless of income. Khadija Lewis-Khan echoes concern of affordability and believes child care is a necessary part of our economic infrastructure. Jeanette Perez is a parent from Providence that says this lack of affordable child care causes her extreme stress. A Woonsocket parent named Felicia Powers turned down a raise in order maintain her child care subsidy. Once she falls of the subsidy cliff, any trace of her raise will be consumed by child care costs. Another parent, Asiata Teah of Providence, is unable to afford consistent child care despite living in a dual income household. Kinte Howie, a Family Worker from the Woonsocket Head Start Child Development Association, is concerned that low wages will keep him from staying in a field he is passionate about. Emma Villa’s family child care business would have closed without the CCRSA and ARPA funds, and she fears for her business when this money runs out, a sentiment shared by many of us.

In addition to these personal stories, RIAEYC is happy to share the following statistics related post-pandemic child care in Rhode Island, cited from Child Care Aware of America’s recent report, Demanding ChangeRepairing Our Child Care System.  

  • A single parent making the median wage in Rhode Island will have to spend 45% of their income on child care in the current market.
  • Placing an infant in child care for one year in Rhode Island costs more than in-state college tuition.
  • The average price to send two children to child care costs 111% more than the average rent in Rhode Island.
  • Rhode Island ranks #6 for least affordable family child care programs
  • Rhode Island ranks #16 for least affordable infant care
  • Rhode Island ranks #12 for least affordable toddler care
  • Rhode Island ranks #16 for least affordable preschool care

We hope that this testimony and data from throughout Rhode Island further compels you to advocate for Rhode Island’s child care families during this critical moment. Our industry depends on this investment.

Sincerely,

Lisa A. Hildebrand, MA
Executive Director, RIAEYC on behalf of the Right from the Start Steering Committee

RIght from the Start Steering Committee
Beautiful Beginnings Child Care
Economic Progress Institute
Latino Policy Institute
Parents Leading for Educational Equity
Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health
Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children
Rhode Island Head Start Association
Rhode Island KIDS COUNT

2022 General Assembly Session Wrap-Up: Major Progress for Rhode Island Families With Young Children, But More Work Needed

June 30, 2022

Thanks to all of your advocacy and strong leadership from the Governor and General Assembly leaders, Rhode Island is strengthening policies and programs that help young children get off to the Right Start! Read our full 2022 Rhode Island General Assembly session wrap-up below.

Child Care is Essential:

  • Lifts the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) family income eligibility at entrance from 180% FPL ($41,454 for a family of 3) to 200% FPL ($46,060 for a family of 3).
  • Lifts family income eligibility at exit from 225% FPL ($51,817 for a family of 3) to 300% FPL ($69,090 for a family of 3) – 300% is the highest eligibility level in RI history!
  • Makes CCAP eligibility permanent for low-income college students enrolled at RI public higher education institution.
  • Maintains the 7% cap on family copayments.
  • Increases CCAP provider rates for all ages of children enrolled in licensed child care centers to range from the 50th percentile to the 80th percentile of the 2021 RI Child Care Market Rate Survey and ensures that rates for programs at the 4 and 5 star quality levels meet or exceed the federal equal access standard.
  • Allocates funds for a child care licensing information technology system.
  • Allocates ARPA funds to provide start-up grants to incentivize people to open and license new family child care homes.
  • Allocates ARPA funds for quality improvement grants to licensed child care centers and family child care homes.

Early Educator Investment:

  • Requires a state plan to prepare, recruit, and retain a highly qualified early childhood workforce, including “adequate wages for early childhood educators regardless of setting.”
  • Allocates ARPA funds for a second year of retention bonuses for educators and direct care staff at licensed child care centers and family child care homes.
  • Allocates ARPA funds to expand the RI’s T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood workforce development model to help more early educators earn post-secondary credentials and degrees.
  • Allocates ARPA funds to develop an early educator workforce registry.

Early Intervention and First Connections:

  • Provides a permanent 45% Medicaid rate increase for Early Intervention – the first rate increase in 20 years! This rate increase will help the 60% of EI children with Medicaid and will also trigger rate increases from commercial health insurance providers (about 40% of EI children have commercial insurance). This will help Early Intervention programs raise wages to more competitive levels so they can recruit and retain qualified staff and then enroll children off the statewide waiting list.
  • Allocates $5.5 million in ARPA funding for Early Intervention Recovery to “provide relief to early intervention providers in response to a decline in enrollment for early intervention, family home visiting, and screening programs. This program will also provide performance bonuses for providers who hit certain targets, such as recovering referral numbers and achieving reduced staff turnover.”
  • Provides a temporary Medicaid rate increase for the First Connections Home Visiting Program that will be effective July 1, 2022 to help the program raise wages to recruit and retain nurses, social workers, and community health workers. First Connections is the mandatory Child Find program for Early Intervention and helps families with newborns connect to essential services and resources. First Connections had not received a rate increase in more than 20 years.

Cover All Kids:

  • Restores Medicaid/RIte Care Coverage to all income-eligible children who are residents of RI, regardless of immigration status.

Medicaid Postpartum Extension:

  • Extends Medicaid/RIte Care Coverage from 60 days postpartum to 12 months postpartum for moms, regardless of immigration status.

Infant/Early Childhood Mental Wellness:

  • Creates a State Infant/Early Childhood Mental Wellness Task Force to develop a state plan on or before June 30, 2023, to promote the adoption of best practices for screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health challenges in Medicaid for infants and young children under the age of six.

Pre-K/State Funded Head Start:

  • Provides level state funding for RI Pre-K and state-funded Head Start for 2022-2023 to maintain existing classrooms and seats.
  • Amends the RI Pre-K Act to require state agencies to develop a plan to expand the RI Pre-K program to serve 5,000 children ages 3 and 4 within five years with expansion beginning in FY24. The plan will also include recommendations for achieving universal access to Pre-K in RI for all children ages 3 and 4.
  • Requires the Pre-K expansion plan to ensure that infant and toddler care is not at risk as Pre-K is expanded.

Office of Early Childhood Development and Learning:

  • Establishes an “Early Childhood Governance Working Group” that will be convened by the chair of the Children’s Cabinet to develop recommendations by October 1, 2023, regarding the governance of early childhood programs in the state.
  • The recommendations shall address, but need not be limited to:
  • The coordination and administration of early childhood programs and services;
  • The governance and organizational structure of early childhood programs and services, including whether, and under what circumstances, the state should consider unifying early childhood programs under one state agency;
  • The fiscal structure of proposed recommendations; and
  • The implementation of early childhood data systems, for strategic planning, program implementation and program evaluation.
  • The existing RI Early Learning Council shall serve as the advisory body to the Working Group.

Let RI Vote:

  • Improves voter access by removing barriers to vote by mail or early in-person in RI!

Paid Family Leave/Temporary Caregivers Insurance:

  • No changes to the Parental and Family Medical Leave Act or the Temporary Caregivers Insurance program were enacted.

Revenue for Rhode Island:

  • No changes were enacted to the state tax rate for the top 1% of earners in order to generate more state revenue to help kids and families.

RIght from the Start Campaign Reacts to Governor McKee Signing FY 2023 State Budget Into Law

June 27, 2022

“The budget passed by the General Assembly and signed into law today by Governor McKee contains numerous wins for the health and education of Rhode Island’s children and parents,” said Leanne Barrett, Senior Policy Analyst, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT and Coordinator of the RIght from the Start Campaign, led by Beautiful Beginnings, Economic Progress Institute, Latino Policy Institute, Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE), Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children, Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health, the Rhode Island Head Start Association, and Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. “The budget increases access to quality, affordable child care for working parents, while investing in our state’s workforce of early educators. We’re also pleased to see much needed investments in Early Intervention and First Connections, programs that are essential to young children experiencing developmental challenges. Finally, the budget includes important wins for child and maternal health including expanding Medicaid coverage for low-income children regardless of immigration status and expanding Medicaid coverage through 12-months postpartum to ensure the health of new moms. The RIght from the Start Campaign thanks Governor McKee, the House and Senate for their work on this budget and for important investments that will help to ensure all Rhode Island kids get off to the right start in life.”

Child Care Provider Jen Rathbun’s Story: Child Care Industry In Need of Funding, Qualified Teachers

June 9, 2022

Nearly two decades ago, Jen Rathbun was asked to join the Board of Directors for the nonprofit child care program Joyful Noise in West Warwick, Rhode Island when her son was a toddler attending the program. She held a few different roles within the organization, and was named director in 2017. 

“Ensuring parents are happy is extremely important, but I realized quickly that it’s arguably most important to keep your staff happy,” said Jen. “If I notice someone on my team showing signs of burnout, I immediately get them additional support, or switch up their classroom assignment or their co-teachers–something to ensure their personal well-being and their ability to continue to do their job at the necessary level of peak performance. And of course I’m doing everything I can to get funding to increase their wages–they deserve more.”

Although the pandemic has made things difficult for Joyful Noise, as it has for the entire child care industry, Jen and her team found it to be a unique opportunity to address staff compensation challenges. Joyful Noise received a child care reinvigoration grant (funded with federal COVID relief resources) which allowed them to make necessary upgrades to their facilities, and applied for various COVID-related child care stabilization grants which allowed them to provide much-needed wage increases, bonuses for teachers and staff, and even tuition relief for a few families enrolled in the program who were facing pandemic-related financial difficulties.

“Families and teachers in our community were struggling. It was so important for us to help with tuition so families could stay on their feet, and to pay our teachers bonuses and wage increases to ensure we retain the talented, qualified staff to run our business successfully,” said Jen. “We’re doing ok now because of this temporary support, but when these grants are no longer available, I don’t see how we’ll keep the highly qualified teachers we need. So many centers have closed, and the child care crisis will worsen without this pandemic relief that has been a lifeline.”

Joyful Noise currently has a long waitlist, including thirty families for their toddler classroom alone. However, they’re still struggling to find and retain enough qualified teachers to staff their classrooms. 

“Many job applicants aren’t qualified, and qualified teachers often can’t justify staying in the field due to the low pay. In the long-term, we need big changes so that we can adequately pay early childhood educators, but in the short term, we spend a lot of time and money constantly searching for and hiring new teachers, and training them to work with the kids,” said Jen. 

Jen stresses the importance of passing the Early Educator Investment Act (H-7283 / S-2235) and passing an FY23 state budget includes funds to continue the ARPA pandemic retention bonus for all child care educators, to provide $2 million to expand the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood scholarship program model, and to provide $5 million in ARPA funds to launch the Child Care WAGE$ model to provide additional compensation to child care educators with post-secondary credentials. 

“Professional development is mandatory for us, and our teachers spend many hours continuing their education so we can provide the highest quality early learning environment. We also have multiple employees who have been able to take advantage of the incredible T.E.A.C.H. program, which reimburses them for some of the costs to get their degree while they’re working, and reimburses child care centers so we can pay someone to fill in for them. It benefits everyone,” said Jen.

She also encourages legislators to pass the Child Care is Essential Act (H-7177 / S-2681) and include $50 million in state and federal funding to increase Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) rates, and lift family income eligibility limits so more families can get help paying for child care, continue CCAP payments based on children’s enrollment, and make investments to improve the quality and expand the supply of child care statewide.

“I hope legislators and other decision-makers realize how important this workforce is, and compensate them accordingly so we can attract the best and brightest teachers to the field. Early childhood educators shape the future. They can’t be at the bottom of the scale in terms of pay–this work is too important, and we’re missing out on so many incredible educators if we’re not willing to pay them a living wage,” said Jen.