In Rhode Island, 981 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start programs and 1,016 3-year olds and 1,708 4-year-olds are enrolled in Head Start programs. At the state level, Rhode Island offers a high-quality, well-funded early childhood program targeted to low-income children and families. Nationally, the state ranks 4th in per-child spending for this preschool program, providing $9,278 per-child, per-year. Rhode Island also has one of the highest quality programs in the country, with its program continuing to meet all 10 quality benchmarks in early childhood education established by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). In December 2011, Rhode Island was one of nine states awarded grants from the $500 million Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge fund. As part of the grant implementation process, seven Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge projects have been created including the– Early Learning Workforce Development, Program Quality Improvement, Program Quality Standards Alignment and Measurement, Early Learning Standards and Development, Child Assessment, Early Learning Data System, and Grant Management to ensure high quality standards and accountability. The average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $12,075.
- What state leaders are saying: Under Gov. Chaffee’s leadership, the state secured Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge funding and recently said that early learning can “help get the young children in Rhode Island off to a great start in their education.” Meanwhile, Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Rhode Island, including Providence Mayor and Head Start graduate Angel Taveras, championed investments in pre-K in a candidate forum, saying, “I’m a Head Start baby…there is nothing more important than investing in early-childhood education and universal pre-K.”
- What’s happening in the Legislature: Leaders of the Rhode Island Senate called for a greater investment in early childhood education during the 2014 legislative session, as part of a focus on long-term workforce development strategies. Meanwhile, 15 pieces of legislation aimed at strengthening and expanding publically financed early childhood programs have been introduced in the 2015 legislative session.
- Funding increases and additional support: The Rhode Island Education Aid Foundation Formula approved in 2010 will take a phased-in approach to expanding access to high-quality early childhood programs for four-year olds with a distinct focus on low-income children and families. The funding formula includes an expansion plan for the Rhode Island pre-K program, increasing the state investment each year for 10 years by up to $10 million per year.