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Rhode Island

Our lead ally in Rhode Island is Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, a statewide children’s policy organization that provides information on child well-being, stimulates dialogue on children’s issues, and promotes accountability and action with a core focus on equity. Rhode Island KIDS COUNT works together with a steering committee of seven other organizations and coordinates the RIght from the Start campaign to advance state policies and raise budgets to help young children.

2023 State Early Childhood Policy Environment and Progress

State early childhood policy progress is dependent both on the state’s policy environment and the numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Early Childhood Landscape:

Research shows that family economic security is foundational to children’s overall wellbeing. Research also shows that widespread disparities in opportunity (especially by race) drive wide disparities in outcomes. States with policies that offer strong support to young children and their families are more likely to see 1) declining numbers of children in low-income households and 2) low racial disparity among those children. 

Young Children in Low-Income Households: Declining

Approximately 36% (33,000) of the state’s children 0-8 live in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (2021). This number represents a decrease from 41% (38,000) in 2016.1

Racial Disparity Among Young Children Living in Low-Income Households: High

Black, Hispanic/Latino, and/or Native children aged 0-8 are significantly more likely to be living in households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level than are Asian and non-Hispanic White children.2

Advocacy Landscape:

State General Fund Appropriations: Growing 

Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee signed the state’s fiscal 2024 budget into law on June 16. The budget provides for total spending from all funds of $14.0 billion, a 3 percent increase over fiscal 2023, and general fund spending of $5.4 billion, a 7.6 percent annual increase. The budget is based on total general fund revenue of $5.28 billion, a 1.5 percent increase over final fiscal 2023 revenues. The legislature adopted the governor’s proposal to create a new supplemental budget reserve account and make an initial transfer of $55 million into the reserve; going forward, half of all general revenue collected in excess of adopted revenue estimates for the year will be automatically deposited into the new reserve. When combined with the state’s rainy day fund balance in the Budget Stabilization and Cash Reserve of $282 million (constitutionally limited to 5.0 percent of annual revenues), total reserves are equivalent to 6.0 percent of general fund revenue.3

Largest Per Capita Revenue Sources (after federal transfers) (FY 2021):4

    • Property Taxes: $2,462 per capita
    • Individual Income Taxes: $1,602 per capita
Permanent State Funding Stream Dedicated to Early Childhood: Yes

Rhode Island has a payroll tax that funds a temporary caregivers insurance (TCI) program as part of a broader disability program. TCI covers paid family leave currently for six weeks for birth, adoptive, and foster parents and for workers to take care of seriously ill loved ones. 

Political Alignment: Aligned Democrat

During the 2023 session, the state’s Senate and House were both Democrat controlled. The state’s Governor was also a Democrat.5

Types of Common Ballot Measures Available:6  Two

    • Legislature-Initiated Constitutional Amendments – A constitutional amendment that appears on a state’s ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters.
    • Automatic Ballot Referrals – In Rhode Island, there is one such question, by law, every ten years, the question of whether to hold a constitutional convention.

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Organizations Include:

Early Childhood Policy Advocacy Multi-State Initiatives Include:7

2023 Policy Progress:

In 2023, the RIght from the Start Campaign helped to win a major increase in state funding to sustain the RI Pre-K program as federal funding expired, new state investments in Head Start and Early Head Start to improve educator compensation so some of the closed classrooms can be reopened, and the launch of a pilot program to provide free child care to child care educators and staff with household income below 300% of the federal poverty level.

Highlights from the state’s early childhood policy advocacy community include:8

RI Pre-K: New state funding was approved to replace expiring federal funds (a 32% increase in state funding for RI Pre-K) which will allow Rhode Island’s high-quality, mixed delivery public preschool program for four-year-olds to keep existing classrooms open in 2023-2024.

Early Head Start and Head Start: New state-managed funds were approved to increase compensation for Early Head Start and Head Start educators to address the staffing crisis which caused about 25% of Early Head Start and Head Start classrooms to be closed in the 2022-2023 school year. This new funding more than triples the amount allocated by the state to Head Start and Early Head Start and the first time funding has been allocated for Early Head Start.

Child Care/Early Educator Staffing Crisis: The state took several efforts to address the early care and education workforce.

    • New funds were approved to pilot a program that provides free child care to educators and staff with family income below 300% of the federal poverty line who work in licensed child care centers and family child care programs.
    • ARPA State Fiscal Recovery Funding was approved to continue $3,000/year bonus payments to all frontline staff of licensed child care programs statewide through FY24.
    • PDG Birth to Five funding was allocated to launch the Step Up to Child Care WAGE$ program in Rhode Island, providing up to $12,000/year to qualified child care educators earning at or below $23/hour.

Cash Assistance/TANF: Eligibility for the RI Works cash assistance program was expanded so that individuals can participate at the onset of pregnancy rather than requiring that they wait until the third trimester.

Earned Income Tax Credit: The state’s refundable Earned Income Tax Credit was increased from 15% to 16% of the federal credit.

Ongoing Grantee Areas of Advocacy:

The Alliance’s lead grantee in Rhode Island, Rhode Island Kids Count, is working to advance early childhood policies in several areas that align with the Alliance’s birth-through-eight policy framework

Early Care and Education

Child Care

Child Care Workforce

Preschool and Pre-K

Child and
Maternal Health

Early Intervention (0-3)

Home Visiting

Infant and Child Health

Maternal Health


Family Economic Security

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Early Childhood Infrastructure

Early Childhood Governance

Click here for more information on advocates’ policy agenda.


Several States Celebrate Wins on State-Level Child Tax Credits

Federal and state child tax credits have historically received bipartisan support. These tax credits for families with children under age 17 provide financial relief for low-income families and their children and support economic mobility. New Jersey, Vermont, and RI have recently chosen to use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to enact state-level child tax credits.

Read More »


1 Kids Count Data Center, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, November, 2022 

2 National Center for Children in Poverty, Children Ages 0 to 8 Below 200 Percent Poverty, March 2023, NCCP analysis of ACS 1-Year Estimates – Public Use Microdata Sample 2021

3 National Association of State Budget Officers, Summaries of Fiscal Year 2023 Enacted Budgets, September 20, 2022.

4 Urban Institute, State Fiscal Briefs, July 2023

5 National Conference of State Legislatures, 2023 State & Legislative Partisan Composition, February 28, 2023.

6 Ballotpedia, Ballot Measures by State, Kids Count Data Center, retrieved May, 2023.

7 Alliance for Early Success, Multi-State Initiatives for Early Childhood Policy Advocacy, April, 2022.

8 Alliance for Early Success, State-Wide Advocacy Highlights Survey, April-August, 2023.  

More State Policy Data:

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More State Demographic Data:

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