Sandra Cano is a Democrat representing District 8 (Pawtucket) in the Rhode Island Senate.
Elected to the Senate in a special election in 2018, Sandra Cano serves as the first Latina chair of the Senate Committee on Education and is a member of the Senate Committee on Finance and the Permanent Joint Legislative Commission on Child Care.
Senator Cano’s legislative work has included a focus on education. She led the efforts for implementing financial literacy curriculum in all high schools, expanding eligibility for access to high quality child care, increasing pay for early childhood educators, and accelerating the pathway to public pre-K for all three and four year olds in Rhode Island. She supported the school construction effort across Rhode Island to ensure that all students can go to a school that is warm, safe, dry, and equipped for 21st century learning. She helped pass legislation requiring all high school students to demonstrate proficiency in civics, known as the Civic Literacy Act. Sandra sponsored a bill ensuring in-state tuition at state colleges and universities for Rhode Island students regardless of immigration status, and co-sponsored the legislation making the Rhode Island Promise free tuition program at CCRI permanent.
In her time in the Senate, Senator Cano has made mental health care a priority. She was the lead sponsor for the Trauma Informed Schools Act and has led an effort to provide state funding for adequate mental health professional support in schools, to ensure all children get the services they need to be ready to learn. In addition, Sandra was the lead sponsor for the bill to implement the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline system here in Rhode Island.
Senator Cano has worked to improve the quality of life for Rhode Islanders by supporting efforts to increase the minimum wage, expand Rhode Island’s family leave program, expand public transportation, promote and defend policies that protect and uplift the LGBTQ+ community, combat climate change, provide free lunch to all school children, and allocate more resources for those experiencing housing insecurity.
Over the years Senator Cano has received recognition for her work in the Senate. In 2022, she was the recipient of the Cover All Kids Legislative Hero Award from the RI Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty, The RI Kids Count Children’s Health Award, and the RI Coalition for Children & Families Legislative Champion. In 2021, Sandra received the Financial Literacy Award from General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, as well as the Inspiring Leadership Award by Connecting Children’s and Families of Rhode Island. In 2020, she was named the Women in Development Institute’s Extraordinary Person. She was awarded the Barbara Burlingame Public Leadership Award in 2018 by Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, and the Paul E. Moura Leadership Award by the Institute for Labor Studies and Research of Rhode Island.
Prior to serving in the Senate, Sandra served on the Pawtucket City Council from 2014-2018 and on the Pawtucket School Committee from 2012-2014, and before that was an appointed member of the Pawtucket Juvenile Hearing Board.
Professionally, Sandra is the Director of Commerce for the City of Pawtucket. She is responsible for working with the City’s business community, with a particular focus on collaborating and providing assistance to local small businesses. She previously worked as the Assistant Vice President of Community Development at Navigant Credit Union, where she was responsible for developing community-based partnerships and developing financial education campaigns for low income and diverse populations.
Senator Cano holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Management and Economics from Bryant University (2007) and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration at the University of Rhode Island (2012). She attended the Harvard Kennedy School where she completed multiple executive leadership programs in 2016.
Sandra Cano was born in Medellin, Colombia, and moved to the United States with her family in 2000. She lives in Pawtucket with her fiancé, James, their daughter, Arianna Hallel, and their son, Alessandro James.