Proposed 2020 budget could expand free pre-K education in Rhode Island

Eromano@abc6.com

@Ellie_Romano

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WLNE) – Rhode Island lawmakers are scheduled to vote Friday on a $9.97 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year.

One aspect of the budget surrounds the expansion of the state’s pre-kindergarten lottery program

Right now, free pre-K education is available to 1,080 4-year-olds. The slots are awarded through a lottery.

Governor Gina Raimondo wanted to expand the program and add 540 slots to the lottery.

However, the current budget proposal only set aside enough money for an additional 270 slots. 

“270 seats is pretty amazing for us,” said state education commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. 

Infante-Green said while the budget doesn’t include all 540 additional slots, this is a good first step. 

“We’re headed in the right direction. This signals that everybody values the opportunity for students to attend pre–K,” said Infante-Green.

There are roughly 10,000 4-year-olds in the state, which means only 10% are currently affected by the lottery. 

Cheryl Curcio has been teaching pre-K for 38 years at Cherry Hill Pre-School. She said it is vital for all children to attend pre-kindergarten classes.

“If they have pre-K experience, then when they go to kindergarten they know what’s expected of them,” said Curcio. “They’ll know how to sit, how to listen, and how to follow directions.”

The 270 new lottery seats will add 10 new classrooms to the public school system. The slots will cost taxpayers $2.9 million.

If the budget is approved on Friday, those new classrooms will be implemented this fall. 

©WLNE-TV/ABC6 2019