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Governor Chafee Announces Awarded Grants to Improve Early Learning

Preschools, child-care centers, family care home programs to receive awards

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Governor Lincoln D. Chafee announced the first Program Quality Improvement Grants on Wednesday, July 31. The inaugural awardees of these grants are Rhode Island early learning providers who were among the first to apply for the technical grants to improve the quality of their early learning programs. The grants will help public preschools, child-care centers and family child-care homes improve the quality of their educational programs, materials and equipment, and support professional development for staff members. Governor Chafee expects to make approximately $5 million dollars available for this round of funding.

In April, Governor Chafee announced the grants and invited public preschools, child-care centers and family care homes to apply for grants. Governor Chafee will present the first checks to the grantees during a ceremony at the Smith Hill Early Childhood Learning Center in Providence.  He will award approximately $335,000 to providers representing early learning centers serving over two thousand Rhode Island children in 17 communities. Grants will continue to be issued to applicants throughout the year.

“Rhode Island’s focus on the education of our youngest children, with a special emphasis on increasing access for high-needs populations, is continuing to transform education in our state. Through our Race to the Top- Early  Learning Challenge grant, we are able to provide direct support to preschools, child-care centers, and family child-care homes,” said Governor Chafee. “As we announce our first Program Quality Improvement Grants for early learning, I want to thank and congratulate the many educators, staff members, and child-care providers who work every day with our youngest learners. A great early-childhood education is the best way to ensure a lifetime of learning and achievement.”

Joining Governor Chafee in celebrating these awards will be Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Secondary and Elementary Education; Eva-Marie Mancuso, Rhode Island Board of Education Chair; Steven Costantino, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Service; Michael Fine, M.D, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health; Sandra Powell , Director, Department of Human Services; Janice DeFrances, Director,  Department of  Children Youth and Family; and Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. 

“We can no longer accept that education begins when children enter kindergarten at age 5,” said Chair Mancuso. “Education begins at birth, and it is our responsibility to ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn – from their earliest years. The grants we are awarding today move us closer to that goal.”

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 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 grant to provide direct support to early learning programs, over four years. The funds will support these programs through direct grants, professional development, scholarships, and focused technical assistance. Rhode Island was one of only nine states to win a Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge grant.

“We are working in Providence to ensure that every child is prepared to succeed on the first day of kindergarten and throughout their academic career,” said Providence Mayor Angel Taveras.  “The Program Quality Improvement Grants made possible through Rhode Island’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant will help us in our efforts to ensure that Providence’s early childhood education providers have the training and tools necessary to improve school readiness across the board.”  

“Every day, Rhode Island families entrust the teachers and staff members in early-learning schools, centers, and programs with the care, well-being, and education of their very young children. There is no greater responsibility and no more important calling,” said Commissioner Gist. “Today, we are awarding grants to early-learning programs across the state to ensure that those who work with our youngest learners have the resources, tools, training, and support they need to do their job well. These grants are a significant step toward improving early-learning access and quality across our state.” 

“Since many of Rhode Island’s pre-school children currently attending either licensed child care centers or licensed home-based child-care centers are members of low-income families, the early learning reforms generated by the Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge assume added importance in establishing a foundation for future success in the classroom.” said Secretary Costantino. “The Early Learning Challenge grant provides solid opportunities for all of our children to benefit from a high quality of education in their earliest years. The importance of that, for the future of our children, and our state, cannot be underestimated.”

"These grants provide the critical resources necessary to make tangible improvements to the quality of early learning programs. This moves Rhode Island forward in ensuring that all children, especially those from low-income families, have access to high quality early learning experiences that form the foundation of later success in life." said Director Powell.

“High quality child-care programs improve educational outcomes for all of our children. These new grants focus on improving child-care for high needs children which includes many children serviced in child welfare and foster care by providing critical early intervention and support to this vulnerable population.” said Director DeFrances. “We are very pleased to be a part of this critically important initiative and congratulate those who have received awards and will be moving forward to provide improved services to Rhode Island’s children.”

“I am proud that RI won Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge and it is wonderful to know these critical resources will help programs improve their quality rating through BrightStars so that many more children will have access to high quality early learning opportunities.” said Bryant.

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 grants may request an application by contacting Nancy Cotoia at 462-6088 or NCotoia@dhs.ri.gov. To register, please contact BrightStars at www.BrightStars.org or by calling BrightStars at 398-7605.

For more information please contact Elliot Krieger, RIDE Communications at (401) 222-8471 or elliot.krieger@ride.ri.gov.

View the list of awardees