The early learning system is in crisis. Families cannot afford child care for their children. Early educators – who are primarily women — make poverty wages, an average of $24,000 per year. Child care small business owners are barely able to balance the books. This isn’t a Rhode Island-only problem – it’s a national crisis, one that the federal Treasury Department has called a market failure.
We cannot afford to wait for the federal government to fix this. That’s why we are taking action now right here in Rhode Island.
We are investing in our early childhood educators with a first-of-its-kind for Rhode Island retention bonus program, ensuring that the educators who have been at the frontlines throughout the pandemic – and still today working with children who cannot yet be vaccinated — get the recognition and compensation they deserve.
We are growing the capacity of child care to ensure that families have more options for care. With RI Rebounds, we are providing start-up grants for new home-based family child cares to open. We have funding to support 100 new small businesses to open and provide up to 800 more child care seats in the state.
But we need to keep going. That’s why this year, it is essential that we invest in child care through our FY23 budget. We must raise the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) rates so that families using the program can access high quality care and providers can compensate staff fairly. We need to expand eligibility for CCAP so more working families can get support paying for child care. And we need to increase the quality of the early learning across our state by investing in higher education pathways for early educators, building program quality, and continuing our RI Rebounds investments in retention bonuses and family child care.
The crisis in child care access holds our entire state economy back. Parents need safe, affordable, quality care for their children to be able to go to work. Young children need access to high-quality early learning to be ready for kindergarten and on a path to reading proficiently in third grade.
Investing in child care is not only an investment in families and our economy today, but for generations to come. Now is the time to make bold investments that make our state the best place to raise a family and find real economic opportunity.
Daniel J. McKee is the Governor of Rhode Island. Sabina Matos is the Lt. Governor of Rhode Island