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Governor Chafee announces grants to improve early learning

Preschools, child-care centers, family child-care home programs invited to apply

As part of the statewide commitment to improving early-learning and development programs for the youngest children in the state, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee has announced a grant program to support preschools, child-care centers, and family child-care homes.

The grants announced today (April 22, 2013) will help public preschools, child-care centers, and family child-care homes to improve the quality of their educational programs and materials, to acquire high-quality educational materials and equipment, and to support professional development for their staff members, curriculum planning, child assessment, and family engagement.

The funding for these grants comes from the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant, which Rhode Island won in December 2011. Rhode Island will use 71 percent of the $50-million, four-year grant to provide direct support to early-learning programs. The funds will support these programs through direct grants, professional development, scholarships, and focused technical assistance.

“In awarding these funds to preschools and child-care centers, we are honoring our commitment to improving the quality of early learning for all children in Rhode Island and to increasing access to early-learning programs for our high-needs population,” said Governor Chafee. “These grants will benefit our state and our children, now and for many years to come.”

“The education process cannot begin when children enter kindergarten at age 5. We must provide excellent learning opportunities for our youngest children,” said Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist. “These Quality Improvement Grants will help preschool educators and child-care providers as they work to prepare our children for success in school.”

“These grants are an important opportunity to make lasting improvements to the quality of early-learning programs, especially those serving low-income children,” said Sandra Powell, Director of the Department of Human Services. “Quality early care and education improves the lives of children and families and is the foundation for success later in life.”

“These grants are particularly important for children in foster care who are already at risk and need early intervention and support to achieve their potential,” said Janice DeFrances, Director of the Department of Children, Youth & Families.

“A good education is a critical social determinant of better health outcomes and is in some ways more important than medical treatment,” said Michael Fine, M.D., Director of the Department of Health (HEALTH). “The Program Quality Improvement Grants are instrumental in improving early-childhood education and, by extension, health outcomes.”

“I have been inspired to watch early-childhood educators work to improve the quality of their early-learning programs through the BrightStars Quality Rating and Improvement System, and now, through these grants, they will have critical support to reach the high levels of quality that all of us want for Rhode Island’s youngest children,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Co-Chair of the R.I. Early Learning Council and Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.

To be eligible for these Quality Improvement Grants, the provider must be either a public prekindergarten programs participating in the RIDE Technical Assistance Project, a licensed child-care center, or a licensed family child-care home participating in BrightStars, the Rhode Island quality-rating and improvement system for child-care and early-learning programs.

Child-care centers can receive grants of up to $30,000; family child-care homes can receive grants of up to $5,000. The Departments of Education and Human Services will jointly award grants until the current $400,000 funding pool is expended; the Departments intend to make approximately $5 million available for a second round of funding, beginning in July.

Rhode Island was one of only 9 states to win a Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant – and one of only 6 states to win both Race to the Top awards.

The Rhode Island Early Learning Challenge focuses on four categories of action: 

  •  developing high-quality, accountable programs;
  • promoting early learning and development outcomes for children;
  • building a great early-childhood education workforce; and
  • measuring outcomes and progress.

The grant opportunity announced today will advance statewide efforts to help programs make progress on the pathway toward higher quality and to provide the training, guidance, and incentives needed to raise the quality of all early-learning programs.

A coalition of Rhode Island agencies administers The Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant, including the Departments of Children, Youth & Families; Elementary and Secondary Education; Health; and Human Services; the Executive Office of Health and Human Services; and Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.

Those interested in applying for the grants may request an application by contacting Nancy Cotoia (462-6088). Informational sessions are scheduled for April 29 and 30. To register, please contact BrightStars at 398-7605.

Additional information