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11/1/2023 General Assembly leaders, advocates highlight success of Child Care for Child Care Educators pilot, funding to keep Head Start classrooms open
STATE HOUSE — General Assembly leaders including Speaker of the House K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) and Sen. Alana DiMario (D-Dist. 36, North Kingstown, Narragansett, New Shoreham), co-chair of the Joint Legislative Commission on Child Care, joined with early education advocates today at Little Learners Academy in Warwick to highlight the success of the $4 million child care for child care educators pilot program and $3 million in state funding to keep Rhode Island Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms open. Both elements were included in the FY 2024 state budget.
“Quality early childhood programming sets children up for greater success in all areas of life,” said Speaker Shekarchi. “I am proud that the legislature prioritized putting the funding for this pilot program in the state budget, which provides support for the workers caring for our state’s most precious resource: our children.”
“Our early childhood system is incredibly important for children’s development and success, and it is also a lifeline for working families across our state,” said Senator DiMario. “Investments in the early childhood workforce and programs like Head Start will have a powerful, positive impact on the future of our state and our communities, and I am grateful for the work of so many colleagues to support Rhode Island’s children and families.”
“Rhode Island’s child care programs and child care educators want to thank the General Assembly and Governor Dan McKee for making important investments in Rhode Island’s child care infrastructure, particularly at a time when the sector is facing significant challenges,” said Lisa Hildebrand, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children and Co-Chair of the RIght from the Start campaign. “One of those challenges is retaining qualified early educators who are almost exclusively women. The new $4 million Child Care for Child Care Educators pilot program recognizes that many child care educators are parents of young children who need care while their parents work, but cannot afford the cost of child care for their own children. The new program, launched in August, already has nearly 200 early educator parents signed up.”
“At Little Learners Academy, we want to serve our community by providing high quality, affordable child care,” said Founder Charlene Barbieri. “Due to challenges retaining qualified early educators, we have unfortunately had to postpone opening classrooms, and that means even longer waitlists for families that need child care. That is why the new Child Care for Child Care Educators program is such a great new benefit for our staff who themselves have young children. At Little Learners, we already have 6 faculty members who are signed up and taking advantage of the program. We deeply appreciate the legislature and Governor Dan McKee’s investment in this program that is helping us to retain staff and, in turn, keep our classrooms open.”
“Obtaining quality early childhood care is difficult and financially taxing,” said Alexis Mirabile, a parent and teacher at Little Learners Academy. “I am beyond fortunate to have applied for the CCAP Child Care Pilot. To have my son attend Little Learners Academy, while I continue to work at the center and take classes in early childhood education has been life changing. I can continue doing what I love while pursuing my education and watching my son thrive each day. Without this pilot program, it would not have been possible. This has been a blessing. Thank you.”
“The $4 million CCAP for Child Care Educators pilot is off to a great start with 192 applications submitted and 336 children already benefiting from the early educator initiative,” said DHS Director Kimberly Merolla-Brito. “Thanks to the legislature, state leaders, child care advocates and others, this pilot is putting much needed money back in the pockets of early educators. This is an important incentive that is not only helping ease a financial burden for these individuals, it is helping promote retention within Rhode Island’s recovering child care sector.”
“In the 2022-2023 school year, despite long waiting lists of eligible young children, almost 30% of the Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms in Rhode Island were closed because programs could not attract and retain qualified staff,” said Mary Varr of the Rhode Island Head Start Association. “Thanks to the $3 million included in the state budget, which supplements federal funding, our programs have been able to raise wages and benefits for staff. As a result, we expect 12 Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms serving 138 young children will be able to reopen in communities across the state. We thank the General Assembly and Governor Dan McKee for their leadership and for investing in Head Start and our state’s youngest learners."
“Without the support of Head Start I don't believe my family would have made it to where we are today,” said Head Start parent Savanna Noe of Woonsocket. “Knowing that with Head Start we have an entire family behind us makes the challenges easier to bear. I’d like to thank the General Assembly for continued funding for Head Start and Early Head start programs, without them families like mine would be at a higher risk of being left behind.”

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903