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7/7/2023 Sen. Gallo, Rep. Donovan sponsor new laws strengthening early education
STATE HOUSE –Sen. Hanna M. Gallo and Rep. Susan R. Donovan together sponsored a pair of successful bills this legislative session to bolster early education in Rhode Island.

The bills, which the legislators sponsored at the request of the Rhode Island Department of Education, ensure that children begin kindergarten by age 6 and that all educational programs for very young children maintain a rating in the state’s early education quality rating system, known as BrightStars.

“High-quality early education has profound positive effects for the rest of a person’s life. It sets kids up for success in the rest of their education, and positions them for better careers and better lives. Ensuring that kids start out well is extremely important,” said Senator Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), who recently retired as a speech language pathologist in Cranston public schools.

Said Representative Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), who was an educator in the Bristol-Warren School Department for 33 years before her retirement, “Every Rhode Island child deserves the benefits of strong early childhood education. Beyond positioning them for academic success, high-quality early education provides critical social and emotional skills and experiences that enrich their lives in the present as well as the future. We are happy to support efforts to provide great early education for every child in Rhode Island.”

One of the bills that was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law brings all early education programs into the same set of assessment standards. Currently, all educational programs for preschool-age children, except those run by public school districts, are required to be assessed and maintain a rating through the state’s “BrightStars” quality-assessment and improvement program. Preschool programs run by public schools, which are subject to different standards, can be assessed through BrightStars voluntarily, and half currently do so.

The new law (2023-H 5339aa, 2023-S 699A) eliminates the separate standards for programs in public schools, bringing them all into BrightStars beginning June 1, 2025.

The change is supported by Rhode Island Kids Count, which testified that participation in BrightStars helps schools and programs meet quality standards that are known to improve child outcomes.

The other bill (2023-S 1090, 2023-H 5544) requires that all children who have reached age 6 by Sept. 1 attend kindergarten, if they have not already completed it. Previously, although Rhode Island law stated that children who have reached age 5 by Sept. 1 are eligible to attend kindergarten, there was no age by which it was mandatory. The law takes effect immediately.

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923