State awarded three-year, $27 million federal grant to support statewide children’s development and education initiatives

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Governor Gina M. Raimondo announced today that the state has been awarded a three-year, $27 million federal grant to support statewide children’s development and education initiatives. The funding – running from 2020 through 2022 – is part of the Administration for Children and Families’ Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) program. Three million of the total $27 million will supplement a proposed $4.5 million state investment in the Governor’s FY21 budget to add 50% more public Pre-K seats by the start of the next school year.

The award is a renewal of a one-year, $4.19 million grant the state received in 2019 to support planning activities toward improving the state’s early childhood system. Rhode Island was among only 20 states to receive the additional funding needed to implement programs and build infrastructure aligned with the initial grant work.

“Rhode Island is already a leader in early childhood education and development, and this grant will allow us to further support our youngest learners,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo in a press release. “I’m proud of our state’s commitment to giving the next generation a strong start, but we need do more. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to expand public Pre-K and ensure that every child has the opportunity to learn and grow.”

Other key grant initiatives include:

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• Funding for family support programs through the state’s Health Equity Zones. Rhode Island’s 10 Health Equity Zones are bringing residents and community partners together to address the root causes of health issues at the local level and build healthier, more resilient communities.

• Piloting a community-level “family navigator” program that will serve as a local resource for young families

• Developing and implementing high-quality professional development for early childhood professionals

• Enhancing the data systems that support early childhood programs

• Implementing a public awareness campaign to support families in learning about and accessing early childhood resources

“The grant’s benefits to our communities will be far-reaching. Whether it’s providing child development resources to young parents or promoting the importance of these efforts to the greater community, the goal is to positively impact children and families for generations,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services and Children’s Cabinet Chair Womazetta Jones in the press release.

“A strong start for Rhode Island children is key for lifelong success, and high-quality early childhood education and wraparound supports are essential components of that foundation,” said Angélica Infante-Green, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Rhode Island is a national leader in early learning, and this funding will help ensure we maintain that high bar at the same time that we work to invest in and expand access to state Pre-K for all children.”

“Every child in every ZIP code in Rhode Island deserves an equal opportunity to realize their full potential and to thrive,” said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. “By supporting Rhode Island’s Health Equity Zones and a wide range of other child-focused, family-focused, and community-focused efforts throughout the state, this funding will help us meet the social, emotional, and physical needs of children at crucial stages of development. Investments like these will benefit our children and our communities decades into the future.”

“These significant federal dollars are critical to our ability to ensure that all Rhode Island children – regardless of the circumstances of their family – will have access to the resources they need to thrive,” said Department of Human Services Director Courtney Hawkins.

“I am delighted that Rhode Island will continue to be a nationwide leader in early education opportunities,” said Kevin Aucoin, acting director of the Department of Children, Youth and Families. “The more resources we can provide our families, the healthier and stronger their children will be.”Established in 2018, the PDG B-5 program aims to “maximize parental choice, improve transitions within early learning and care programs, and improve the overall quality of programs.”

“Early childhood programs benefit both the child and their family,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT and Co-Chair of the state’s Early Learning Council. “Ensuring that young children ages birth to 5 have access to high-quality early learning and development opportunities yields positive outcomes in the long term. It’s encouraging that the state is continuing to push for these policies and secure needed investments.”

Initial grant funding in 2019 enabled Rhode Island to complete comprehensive needs assessments, develop a new early childhood plan and governance structure, implement high-quality professional development programs, fund family and parenting support programs and create the ‘Rhode Island Way’ public awareness campaign that the Governor kicked off today.

The ‘Rhode Island Way’ awareness campaign is a multi-platform public awareness campaign designed to highlight an array of supportive programs that bolster early childhood outcomes. Under the Governor’s direction, Rhode Island offers expecting and new parents and children aged newborn to five a wide range of services that set kids on a path for success, including early intervention, home visiting, expanded access to public Pre-K, and universal all-day kindergarten.

The campaign includes digital and broadcast video advertisements that will begin airing today, print advertisements, English-language and Spanish-language radio advertisements and targeted social media marketing.

Late last year, the Governor and the Children’s Cabinet relaunched kids.ri.gov as a parent-focused website, providing resources on early childhood education and development from prenatal to Pre-K.