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

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.