Childcare advocates push for state funding in FY 2024 budget

WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE) — Dozens of childcare workers, providers, parents, and more gathered Wednesday in Warwick to call on the state legislature to modify the proposed FY 2024 state budget — that as it currently stands, includes no new money for early childcare access.

Currently, the budget includes $8 million to prevent the closure of Rhode Island pre-K classrooms for 4-year-olds

Many of the concerned parents and childcare workers in attendance voiced their concerns about the lack of funding on the state level. Rhode Island received $4 million in new federal funding for childcare for the upcoming year, but none on the state level.

Without new money, program leaders with Head Start Rhode Island say it will be a greater challenge to keep Head Start classrooms open, as well as reopen the ones already shut down.

Right now, 30 of the roughly 100 Head Start classrooms in Rhode Island are closed and won’t reopen next year without new funding.

Head Start leadership provided three fixes to solve these issues with more state funding. The first includes reopening Head Start and early Head Start classrooms.

Another is to help more Rhode Island families afford quality care because right now, the state has the lowest family income cut off from the federal poverty level among New England states at just under $50,000 a year for a family of three.

And a third proposal is better wages for childcare workers by funding the WAGE$ program, which is included in the Early Educator Investment Act, a move that Head Start program leaders say would help to take some of the stress off workers in the childcare field.

House Speaker Joe Shekarachi, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, and Gov. Dan McKee have all promised to take another look at the budget and add additional resources after it passed through the House Finance Committee last week.

A spokesperson for Shekarachi said that “there are always issues that need to be evaluated after the passage of the budget by the House Finance Committee, and this is one of them.”

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