As Rhode Island considers extending the social contract at the tail end of the public education experience with Governor Gina Raimondo’s high profile RI Promise proposal, it’s worth noting the Ocean State has been extending it at the other end for almost a decade.
This September, the state-funded pre-kindergarten program adds four new classrooms in Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls, increasing the overall number of classrooms to 60 in 11 cities with the highest rates of poverty in Rhode Island. The total number of students served by the program increases by 13 to 1,008. The Rhode Island Pre-Kindergarten Program began nine years ago with just 126 students.
“We need to capture these students and give them the support they need before they fall behind,” said Governor Gina Raimondo in a statement from the Department of Education. “Quality early education is at the center of my strategic goal to get all children reading on grade level, and we continue to open up that opportunity to more students.”
About 13 percent of the estimated 7,644 eligible four-year-olds from these 11 communities will have the opportunity, winners will be chosen by a random lottery (register here).
Rhode Island ranks 41 out of 50 states in children served by state-funded preschool, according to the most recent National Institute for Early Education Research study of all 50 states. Not bad considering of the states that offer pre-K, “Rhode Island has historically ranked last in the country,” according to WPRI reporter Dan McGowan in 2014 – when only 2 percent of Rhode Island children were in state sponsored pre-k programs.
At least four states have universal preschool programs: Vermont, Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma. Many other states serve less than half of eligible students. “In 2014, of the 41 states with state-funded pre-K programs (a figure which included the District of Columbia), only nine served more than half of all 4-year-olds in the state, and 11 served less than 10 percent,” according to US News and World Report post in 2015.
A combination of federal and state investment has helped build the program in Rhode Island. Funding levels have increased by about one $1 million a year over the past nine years. This year the state pre-k program will cost $10,933,871, with $5,160,000 from the state and $5,778,871 from federal prschool expansion funding, said Meg Geoghegan, a spokesman for the state Department of Education. Next year, the governor’s proposed budget allocates $12,283,131 to the pre-k program, with $6,240,000 coming from state and $6,043,131 from the feds.
“Pre-kindergarten sets a strong foundation for students and for our entire educational system” said Barbara Cottam, chairwoman of the Board of Education, in a press release. “When we invest in early learning opportunities for all children, we invest in their futures and lay the groundwork that enables them to be successful.”
The 60 pre-k programs are all located in 11 of Rhode Island’s most impoverished communities: Central Falls, Cranston, East Providence, Johnston, Newport, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick, West Warwick, and Woonsocket.
• Central Falls School District, Capt. Hunt Early Learning Center (12 Kendall Street) – 3 classrooms
• Expansion – Central Falls School District, Margaret I. Robertson Elementary (135 Hunt Street) – 2 classrooms
• Comprehensive Community Action Program (848 Atwood Ave.) – 2 classrooms
• The Children’s Workshop (546 Budlong Road) – 1 classroom
• Martin Middle School (111 Brown Street) – 5 classrooms
• Oldham School (60 Bart Drive) – 2 classrooms
(Note: Applications for the Martin and Oldham sites are available at the East Providence Administration Offices, 145 Taunton Ave.)
• East Bay Community Action Program (70 Turner Ave.) – 1 classroom
• Graniteville School (6 Collins Avenue)
(Note: Applications for the Graniteville site are available at Graniteville School until June 17 and at the Johnston Central Office, 10 Memorial Dr., throughout the application period.)
• East Bay Community Action Program at the Pell Annex of the John F. Kennedy School (740 West Main Rd., Middletown – temporary location; program will be for Newport residents only) – 1 classroom
• East Bay Community Action Program Head Start (8 John Chafee Blvd.) – 2 classrooms
• Tri-Town Community Action Agency (2204 Mineral Spring Avenue) – 1 classroom
• Expansion- Pawtucket School Department, Fallon Memorial School (62 Lincoln Avenue) – 3 classrooms
(Note: Applications for the Fallon site are available at the Pawtucket Central Office, 286 Main St.)
• Ready to Learn Providence @ Heritage Park YMCA Early Learning Center (333 Roosevelt Ave.) – 2 classrooms
• Children’s Friend and Service (13 Legion Drive) – 1 classroom
• Providence School Department, Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School (35 Camp Street) – 1 classroom
(Note: Applications for the Martin Luther King , Jr. site are available at the Providence Registration Center, 325 Ocean Street.)
• Ready to Learn Providence @ CCRI Liston Campus (1 Hilton St.) – 1 classroom
(Note: Applications for the CCRI site are available at 945 Westminster St., Providence)
• Beautiful Beginnings (700 Elmwood Ave.) – 2 classrooms
• Children’s Friend and Service (350 Point St.) – 2 classrooms
• Expansion- Children’s Friend and Service (99 Berkshire St.) – 2 classrooms
• Children’s Friend and Service (550 Hartford Avenue) – 1 classroom
• Imagine Preschool (520 Hope Street) – 3 classrooms
• The Mariposa Center (1 Corliss Park) – 1 classroom
• Meeting Street (1000 Eddy St.) – 2 classrooms
• Expansion- Smith Hill Early Childhood Learning Center (25 Danforth St.) – 5 classrooms
• CHILD, Inc. (160 Draper Ave.) – 2 classrooms
• Academy for Little Children (10 James P Murphy Industrial Highway) – 1 classroom
• CHILD, Inc. (28 Payan St.) – 3 classrooms
• Connecting for Children and Families (46 Hope St.) – 2 classrooms
• Woonsocket Head Start Child Development Association (204 Warwick St.) – 4 classrooms
• YWCA Rhode Island (514 Blackstone Street), 1 Classroom