PROVIDENCE, RI - As part of her FY19 budget, Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced plans to invest in quality child care. Her budget proposal includes $1.5 million in that endeavor for infants and toddlers in home- and center-based settings. This proposal directly links rates for child care to the quality of providers with a tiered approach.
On January 31st, the Governor and others spoke at Beautiful Beginnings - a 4-star quality child care center in Providence. More than 50 people crowded the room to support and learn more about all of the child care initiatives currently underway.
There was also a nod to what the governor has previously accomplished.
"Over the past three years, we've made progress for our kids," Raimondo said. "Now, all day kindergarten is universal, and we've tripled the number of pre-kindergarten classrooms. When we invest in high-quality child care, we're building on that commitment to making sure that every child gets top-notch educational opportunities right from the very beginning."
Other speakers included DHS Director Courtney Hawkins, EOHHS Secretary Eric Beane, Senator Elizabeth Crowley, Representative Grace Diaz. The speakers spoke of the necessity of early childhood care and education for the children, their parents, and the state as a whole. Many childcare providers were in attendance and agreeing that this has been long overdue.
"These teachers that are building this great foundation for the children in their care are not making a living wage," said Khadija Lewis-Khan, Director of Beautiful Beginnings.
She continued, "We, as child care centers are not able to support them by compensating them with what they deserve. All children need to have the opportunity to be loved and cared for in a stable environment where they have a bounty of learning opportunities and their parents are valued."
Rhode Island will be joining 41 others states with a tiered reimbursement model - higher payment rates for higher-quality care programs. The rate differential supports the additional costs involved in raising quality, helps with retaining the best teachers and gives families more options for great child care.
The budget also invests $200,000 in a pilot program to assist adult learners in accessing child care. It allows low-income parents to receive child care assistance if they choose to go back to school or join a workforce training program.
The investment is a significant part of planned efforts to improve quality care. Director Hawkins and the Starting Right Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) team is leading a process - and working collaboratively with stakeholders, advocates and providers - to make improvements to the BrightStars system. The BrightStars Think Tank group plans to submit recommendations to DHS by the end of April.
Currently, less than 10 percent, or 64 of 661 providers who care for our CCAP children, have the higher BrightStars ratings of 4- and 5-stars.
"Families need child care so they can go to work and children need high-quality child care so they can build skills and knowledge about the world. This proposal to reimburse child care providers through a tiered structure that incentivizes quality, is an important step in supporting the state's subsidized child care system that has been underfunded for too long." said Rachel Flum, Executive Director of the Economic Progress Institute. "This investment will help working parents access high-quality care and help ensure child care teachers are paid a fair salary."
In addition, the State is committed to ensuring child care providers have access to resources, including professional development, to move up the BrightStars rating system. There is also commitment to further streamline how child care owners engage, such as with licensing, with the various Rhode Island agencies and departments.
"All of these initiatives are essential to moving the needle of success for families, children, the workforce and the State as a whole," said DHS Director Courtney E. Hawkins. "This is how to ensure equality, and the educational foundation every child deserves. And a dollar investment in a child before they turn 3-years-old is going to pay dividends forever."