June 1, 2023

Dear Members of the Rhode Island House and Senate:

The mission of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT is to improve the health, safety, education, economic well-being, and development of Rhode Island's children with a commitment to equity and the elimination of unacceptable disparities by race, ethnicity, disability, zip code, immigration status, neighborhood, and income. Rhode Island KIDS COUNT engages in information-based advocacy to achieve equitable public policies and programs for the improvement of children’s lives. 

Throughout this session, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT has been advocating for legislative and budget priorities that advance this mission and improve the well-being of our state’s children.

As the session winds down, we encourage you to consider these priorities as you vote on the final budget and key legislation that will impact children, families, and our state’s long-term future. As always, please reach out with questions by contacting me at [email protected] or calling our office at (401) 351-9400.

We appreciate your hard work and commitment to bettering the future of our children and our state.

Economic Well-Being

  • End deep child poverty: Improve the RI Works Program by updating the cash assistance benefit annually to ensure children do not live in deep poverty, repealing the full family sanction, allowing pregnant to receive support earlier, and restoring eligibility to legal permanent residents. (Handy H-5644/Murray S-227) *Raising RI Coalition & *RIght from the Start Campaign
  • Provide healthy school meals for all: Ensure that breakfast and lunch are offered to all public school students for free, regardless of their household income, as part of the school day. Ensure that all federal funds are leveraged to support this program and then provide adequate state funds to pay remaining costs (estimated cost is $35 million). (Caldwell H-5639/Cano S-0068 & Tanzi H-6007/Acosta S-0071)
  • Improve RI Paid Family Leave: Increase the wage replacement level so all parents, and especially lower wage-earning parents, can have adequate income to stay home and care for newborns, adoptive, and foster children. Expand the number of weeks offered to families to meet national standards -- at least 12 weeks for each parent. (Kazarian H-5781 /Lawson S-139 & Diaz H-5447/Miller S-0534) *RIght from the Start Campaign


  • Stabilize young children’s health: Ensure babies and young children with Medicaid/RIte Care insurance have consistent access to preventive, specialized, and emergency health care by adopting continuous Medicaid eligibility for all children under age 6. (Slater H-5986/Lauria S-247) *RIght from the Start Campaign
  • Replace all lead pipes: Require that a plan is put in place to replace all lead pipes in Rhode Island within 10 years and ensure that the replacement process is free and prioritizes low-income communities. (O’Brien H-5007/Ruggerio S-0003 & Morales H-5318)


Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice, Safety

  • Provide financial support to youth aging out of foster care to support higher education and the housing and other financial support needed to support success. (Casimiro H-6189 & Casimiro H-5635/DiPalma S-0780)
  • Provide educational advocates for children in foster care to support their educational planning, progress, and success. (Casimiro H-5458 / Kallman S-183)
  • Prohibit the incarceration of children under the age of 14 at the Rhode Island Training School, except in cases where the juvenile is charged as an adult for a felony capital offense. (Kislak H-5359/ Valverde S-344)
  • Prohibit questioning of a juvenile who is suspected of juvenile or delinquent behavior unless the parent or guardian of the juvenile is present during questioning. (Kislak H-5227/ Kallman S-404)
  • Ban assault weapons: (Knight H-5300 / Miller S-379)
  • Require firearms to be stored safely and securely when not in use. (Caldwell H-5434/Lauria S-321)


Early Learning and Development

  • Affordable, reliable, high-quality child care: Restore $48 million in state funding and use the $4 million in new federal funding to pass the RI Child Care is Essential Act so that all families at or below the State Median Income can receive help paying for child care, all provider rates for the RI Child Care Assistance Program meet or exceed federal standards, and the outdated and inequitable child support enforcement requirement is removed. (Diaz H-5193/Cano S-522) *RIght from the Start Campaign
  • Prevent permanent closure of any RI Pre-K, Head Start, or Early Head Start classrooms: Restore and provide $6.5 million in state funding for Head Start and Early Head Start programs statewide while also investing $7 million to sustain the RI Pre-K program. (McNamara H-6009/Gallo S-463 & Governor’s Budget Proposal H-5200 *RIght from the Start Campaign
  • Invest in the First Connections family home visiting program: Make the long-needed rate increase permanent for the Rhode Island First Connections newborn home visiting program to prevent program collapse. Develop a plan to sustain and expand voluntary family home visiting services, including meeting the new state funding requirements, so that high-quality programs are offered to all families who could benefit. (Giraldo H-5810/Valverde S-207) *RIght from the Start Campaign
  • Establish goals and invest to recruit and retain skilled early educators: Pass the RI Early Educator Investment Act to establish statewide compensation goals for early educators, fund the Child Care WAGE$ pilot program to increase compensation and reduce turnover among skilled child care educators, and establish the RI educator registry in statute. Pass the Child Care for Child Care Educators bill to implement Kentucky’s strategy to recruit and retain child care educators by providing free child care for all child care educators. (Casimiro H-5094/Cano S-492 & Diaz H-6169/ DiMario S-377) *RIght from the Start Campaign
  • Recruit and retain Early Intervention professionals by helping with student debt repayment: sets aside up to 10 Wavemaker Fellowships for Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, and Physical Therapists working in Early Intervention, with priority for bilingual professionals. (Giraldo H-5983/Gallo S-523) *RIght from the Start Campaign



  • Address RI’s child mental health crisis: Increase the number of school social workers and school psychologists by expanding eligibility for Medicaid reimbursements to include school social workers and school psychologists and establishing state support for school-based mental health services. (Kazarian H-5396/Sosnowski S-0258, McNamara H-5010) *Anti-Racist Education Policy Collaborative
  • Improve the school funding formula: Increase funding for Multilingual Learners and high-cost special education, create a new component of the funding formula to support students experiencing homelessness, and revisit the weight for low-income students. (Governor’s Budget Proposal H-5200)
  • Invest in out-of-school time: Expand access to high-quality afterschool, summer, and workforce development programs and build and sustain an effective out-of-school time workforce. (Casimiro H-5520/Cano S-0987 & Governor’s Budget Proposal H-5200)
  • Improve college access and completion: Establish the Rhode Island Hope Scholarship, providing qualified high school students with two years of free tuition and fees at Rhode Island College. (Governor’s Budget Proposal H-5200)
  • Support Multilingual Learners by creating a dual language program fund to be administered by RIDE and establishing a program to expand the issuance of teaching certificates to bilingual dual language and world language teachers in urban and urban ring schools. (Felix H-5777/Cano S-549 & Morales H-6023/Cano S-559)
  • Establish the RI Ombudsman for Special Education to ensure that school districts provide needed supports required by law to children with disabilities. (Carson H-5166/ Murray S-63)
  • Limit the use of suspensions: Require the use of restorative justice practices to address student misbehavior (Diaz H-5422/Quezada S-189) *Anti-Racist Education Policy Collaborative
  • Youth Voice: Make the student representative on the Council of Elementary and Secondary Education a voting members. (Morales H-5547/Lawson S-484) *Anti-Racist Education Policy Collaborative
  • Educators of Color: Provide financial incentives, such as loan forgiveness and scholarships to support strategies to increase the number of Educators of Color. (Giraldo H-5421) *Anti-Racist Education Policy Collaborative
  • Amend the Rhode Island Constitution so that all Rhode Islanders must be provided with an equal opportunity to receive an education that is adequate to permit them to achieve at high levels and to become lifelong learners, productive workers, and responsible citizens” and that this right is judicially enforceable. (Messier H-5771/ Picard S-72)



  • Advance equitable policies: Require the Governor’s budget to include an Equity Impact Statement to address what impact the legislation will have on Rhode Island residents based on race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, age or country of ancestral origin to help increase equity and decrease disparities. (Cortvriend H-6110/Acosta S-0527, Kislak H-5763/Mack S-636)
  • Raise more state general revenue: Pass the Revenue for Rhode Island Act, a fair share tax strategy, which will bring in much-needed revenue to invest in K-12 education, child care and early learning programs, and transportation infrastructure to help get more people to work. (Alzate H-6148/Murray S-232) *RIght from the Start Campaign
  • Open meeting law: Makes meetings more accessible to the general public by allowing a videoconferencing option (Caldwell H-5722A/Gu S-815)

Rhode Island KIDS COUNT is a statewide children’s policy organization that works to improve the health, economic well-being, safety, education, and development of Rhode Island children with a core focus on equity. | www.rikidscount.org

* RIght from the Start is a legislative and budget campaign to advance state policies for young children and their families in Rhode Island.

* The Raising RI Coalition is composed of 60 advocacy, faith, health care and social service organizations dedicated to lifting children out of poverty by increasing the RI Works benefit and to breaking the cycle of poverty by providing parents with education and training opportunities leading to well-paying, secure jobs..

* The Anti-Racist Education Policy Collaborative is composed of youth, families, and community organizations dedicated to using data to identify policies that contribute to racial disparities in education and creating anti-racist education policies.

Facebook  Instagram  Twitter  LinkedIn