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.
"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."
"Our work to support our children - their education, safety, and success - is so important," says RI Health and Human Services Secretary Eric J. Beane. "These targeted investments will assist adult learners in accessing child care and link child care reimbursement rates to quality. Together, we are going to make our child care system stronger."
Representative Grace Diaz and Senator Elizabeth Crowley have been champions for this issue and they have introduced legislation on the topic.
"Governor Raimondo's inclusion of this program in her proposed budget will make a meaningful difference for child care providers, families, and children. It is an important next step to take to reach our goal because it would create a rate system that increases rates for all child care providers serving low-income families and larger increases for higher quality programs." said Representative Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence).
"Success in high school, college and career begins in early childhood. The experiences of early childhood lay the foundation for future academic, social and emotional success. The investments we make in early childhood education pay vast dividends by helping children and families gain the advantages they need for a lifetime of opportunity. Education at all levels - from early childhood through higher education and adult worker training - is truly the foundation of a strong economy. These are investments that will benefit our communities many times over," said Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Pawtucket).
The investment is a significant part of planned efforts to improve quality care. Rhode Island Department of Human Services Director Courtney E. 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."