Testimony relating to H7225 Rhode Island Department of Education FY25 Budget

Last updated: March 29, 2024

The Economic Progress Institute supports the expansion of high-quality public preschool provided for in the FY25 Budget. However, EPI recommends 30% of this

funding, $7.1 Million in state funding to expand RI Pre-K, to be directed towards stabilizing and strengthening Rhode Island’s early care and education system. 

All children deserve access to high-quality education. Early care and education programs, such as Head Start, Early Intervention, and the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), are critical tools in connecting families with babies and young children with educational and developmental supports. Rhode Island has a severe staffing crisis in early care and education programs that has destabilized high-quality care and support for infants, toddlers, and their families. Additionally, three separate initiatives that are helping stabilize the early care and education workforce are scheduled to end this summer: the Child Care for Child Care Educators program, which provides free child care for qualified child care educators; the Child Care WAGE$, which provides significant wage supplements to help keep skilled and lower-wage early educators in early care and education classrooms; and the pandemic retention bonus program, which provides wage supplements to over 4,000 child care staff each year for the last two years. As of November 2023, there are over 700 infants and toddlers waiting for Early Intervention services for over 45 days, breaking mandated federal and state entitlements.1 These programs support the growth and development of Rhode Island’s babies and young children and their families. 

An accessible, affordable, and high-quality Early Care and Education system has been proven to improve parents’, especially mothers’, employment and improve children’s academic success, social-emotional development, and lifelong employment and health outcomes.2 Quality early care and education are the building blocks for children’s academic success, socialemotional development, and lifelong employment and health outcomes.3 The current child care workforce faces issues with recruitment, wages, and retention. Qualified early educators are necessary for Rhode Island’s children to have the best outcomes in their future.

The Economic Progress Institute, alongside the RIght from the Start Campaign, recommends 30% of the funding for expanding RI Pre-K to be directed towards strengthening access to highquality infant and toddler early care and education, which includes increasing Child Care Assistance infant rates, stabilizing Early Head Start, or wage supplements for infant/toddler teachers. These investments in Rhode Island’s youngest children will yield great long-term benefits for infants and toddlers, their families, the communities they live in, and our state’s economy.

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