Wednesday, April 17, 2024

LTE: REPRESENTATIVES SUSAN R. DONOVAN AND SANDA CANO

In a recent commentary, early education advocates   Lisa Hildebrand and Khadija Lewis Khan drew a very appropriate comparison between Rhode Island’s child care resources and the Washington Bridge, noting that both are critical infrastructure whose challenges create serious obstacles to working Rhode Islanders.

SUSAN DONOVAN

We couldn’t agree more, and are just as committed to strengthening early education programs in our state as we are to ensuring a safe and swift solution to the bridge fiasco. But unlike the problems that led to the failure of the bridge, the causes and solutions to our child care problems are quite clear.

Simply put, it’s funding. It’s virtually impossible to provide the high-quality child care that working families need at a price they can afford. The result is a tug-of-war that no one is winning – families cannot afford child care and early educators cannot afford to live on their income, which is generally lower than entry-level fast food wages.

That is why we are making the Rhode Island Early Educator Compensation Stabilization Act (2024-H 7251-2024-S 2038} one of our highest priorities this legislative session.

SANDRA CANO

Our bill would sustain and strengthen existing workforce development and compensation programs for educators working in licensed child care and early learning programs statewide, funding the continuation of workforce development and retention bonuses for our state’s dedicated, valuable, yet incredibly underpaid early educators.

The bill would continue the Child Care WAGE$ salary supplement program, as well as a pandemic-era quarterly retention bonus of $750 for the lowest wage early educators who work directly with children and have been consistently employed in the same program.

These programs have helped retain early education staff since the pandemic. Our state will face a child care crisis if funding ends this year. We have been working to bolster support from our legislative colleagues and our chambers’ leadership for this important measure to help ensure that the devoted staff members of child care and early learning programs can afford to keep the jobs they love. If they can’t afford to work, neither can the families who depend on them.

-House Health and Human Services Committee Chairwoman Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth) and Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket)