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:
- 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.
- 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)
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.