PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — U.S. Senator Jack Reed is calling for publicly funded pre-K to be made available to all families who want it.
Reed announced Monday that he’s throwing support behind the Biden administration’s plan to direct federal funds toward universal pre-K for children ages 3 and 4 through a national partnership with states.
“We are coming out of the dark days of the pandemic, and we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to chart a new course, one that creates opportunity, promotes equity and lays a strong foundation for the future,” Reed said at the Genesis Center in Providence.
“That starts with investing in our families, investing in expanding education, and it is best to start early,” he continued.
Reed says now is the time to make sure every child in America has access to free, high-quality pre-school, adding that the federal government needs to step up and partner with state and local governments in an effort to share costs and give kids “a stronger, healthier start.”
“Offering free pre-K for toddlers seems like it should be such a simple thing, because it has ripple effects and comprehensive benefits that help kids parents, businesses, communities and our nation as a whole,” Reed said.
According to Reed, the Biden administration’s pre-K proposal could save the average Rhode Island family with a preschooler more than $10,000.
A report card from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) shows that while Rhode Island met all 10 quality standards benchmarks for pre-K, the state ranks 32nd in terms of pre-K access.
According to the R.I. Department of Education, Rhode Island Pre-K serves 1,848 children in 16 communities across the state “using a mixed-delivery model comprised of Head Start programs, local schools, and community-based child care providers.” The state’s pre-K enrollment is determined by a lottery.
In her State of the State address in 2020, then-Gov. Gina Raimondo said she would propose to increase the number of pre-K seats by 50% that year, bringing the total to more than 2,100. She also proposed floating a bond to build more pre-K classroom spaces.
Reed is also a co-sponsor of the Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA) which provides funds and otherwise revises certain child care and early-learning programs for low- to moderate-income families.
The senator recently teamed up with Patty Murray, D-Washington, to reintroduce the CCWFA, which Reed’s office says would “address the child care crisis, expand access to preschool programs for three and four-year-olds, and take several steps to increase the supply of high-quality, affordable child care.”
Rhode Island has received a number of preschool development grants over the years. Most recently, in 2019, the state was awarded a $4.19 million Children and Families’ Preschool Development Grant Birth Through Five (PDG B-5) award. Subject to appropriations, the grant could be worth up to $8.94 million over three years.