On January 15, 2019, Governor Gina M. Raimondo delivered her annual State of the State address. As part of this speech, she discussed a variety of programs related to parenting and children that she would like to fund and will be including in her budget proposal this year.
Raimondo’s budget will go to the State Legislature which will vet her proposals and pass their version of the budget. This process takes many months and it’s possible that not all of the proposals the Governor discussed in her speech will be funded in the final budget.
Pre-K and K-12 education
Raimondo noted that after years of changing from one assessment type to another, Rhode Island has now embraced the test Massachusetts has used for 25 years and set a baseline for improving educational outcomes over the coming years. The test, referred to as RICAS, recently showed that RI is far behind Massachusetts in its English and Math scores – the main areas tested.
Early learning is extremely important to bring about later success in schooling. For instance, children who do not read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than their peers, according to the Rhode Island Campaign for 3rd Grade Reading. According to past testing, only about 40% of RI’s children are reading at grade level in the 3rd grade.
During her first term, the Governor’s budgets tripled the number of Pre-K classes and helped to expand all-day kindergarten to every school district in the state. In her State of the State address, Raimondo pledged to continue by making Pre-K universal in the Ocean State.
“By the time I leave office, there will be a Pre-K seat for every four-year-old whose parents want it. The budget I’ll submit later this week sets us on a path to make that happen. Let’s get this done,” she said, according to a release from the Governor’s office.
Raimondo also previously helped to bring about a public/private initiative to ensure every RI school teaches computer science and she stated the need for consistent high standards, additional resources for teachers, and increased investment in K-12 education.
“Tonight, I’m announcing an additional $30 million in school funding. This funding for local communities is the single biggest increase of any part of the state budget,” she said. “Let’s all step up and make the necessary changes to improve our students’ performance. Standing with parents and working with our dedicated teachers, we are not going to stop until all children can get the education they need for a bright future.”
Two years ago, Raimondo brought about the Rhode Island Promise program, which provides free tuition at the Community College of RI (CCRI) in order to prepare the state’s workers for future jobs that will require a degree or credential past high school. According to her office, RI Promise has doubled enrollment at CCRI and the number of students on track to graduate in two years has nearly quadrupled.
The Governor’s budget proposal this year will include $3.3 million to bring the Rhode Island Promise program to Rhode Island College (RIC) and she is also committed to future expansion at the University of Rhode Island (URI).
“Most RIC graduates stay in Rhode Island. They’re our nurses, the IT technicians, our teachers that keep our economy going. This small but smart investment – a few million dollars in a $10 billion budget – will change lives, strengthen our economy, and help us ensure that every Rhode Islander can get a good job,” Raimondo said.
Children’s mental health in schools
Noting that more kids are struggling with anxiety and depression than in past generations, Raimondo pledged to make Rhode Island a national leader in addressing mental health in schools.
“This year, we’re going to launch a new initiative to address mental health in our schools. We’re going to make sure that kids have access to health care for anxiety and depression just as we would if they had the flu or a broken arm,” she said. “The budget I’ll introduce this week will also include funding to provide educators with training they need to support their students’ mental health needs.”
Gun safety and children
Raimondo also pledged to continue her drive to make changes in gun laws to keep children safer in schools and neighborhoods. She announced a comprehensive gun reform package she’ll be introducing in the coming weeks that includes a ban on high-capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons.
“We can’t sit back and deny a generation of Rhode Islanders their right to safe schools and safe communities,” she said.
Job training and minimum wage
In her speech, the Governor committed to increasing funding for job training by including an additional $2 million for the Real Jobs RI program in her budget proposal to the State Legislature.
She pointed to a guest at the speech – Nafissa Hassan – who gained increased economic security by enrolling in a Real Jobs IT training program which led to an internship, and then a job as an associate engineer, with eMoney.
In the speech, Raimondo also asserted that no Rhode Islander should work full-time and still struggle to make ends meet. She announced her plan to propose a 4th minimum wage increase this year and put Rhode Island on the path to a $15 minimum wage.