WalletHub: R.I. early childhood education system 5th best in nation

RHODE ISLAND's early childhood education system is ranked fifth best in the nation, according to a WalletHub analysis released Tuesday. / PBN FILE PHOTO

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s early childhood education system is ranked fifth best in the nation, according to a WalletHub analysis released Tuesday.

WalletHub, a personal finance website with a focus on reviews for financial advisers, compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across three areas: access, quality and resources and economic support, using 12 metrics: Share of school districts that offer state pre-K program, share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in state pre-K program, share of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-K, pre-K special education and Head Start programs, presence of waiting lists or frozen intake for childcare assistance, pre-K program growth, pre-K quality benchmarks met, income requirement for state pre-K eligibility, requirement of school safety plans and audits, total reported spending per child enrolled in preschool, change in state spending per child enrolled in preschool, total state Head Start program spending per child enrolled in preschool and monthly child care co-payment fees as share of family income.

In earning the fifth-highest ranking, the study found Rhode Island was 30th in income requirement for state pre-K eligibility, 10th in total reported spending per child enrolled in preschool, fifth in total state Head Start Program spending per child enrolled in preschool, first in monthly child care copayment fees as a percentage of family income and first in change in state spending per child enrolled in preschool.

The Ocean State was 27th in access, sixth in quality and second in resources and economic support, with an overall score of 63.45.

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Rhode Island lawmakers passed a state budget last month that provides a one-time tax credit of $250 per child to help pay for child care, nearly doubles the number of seats available in government-funded prekindergarten programs, and provides subsidies for child care workers.

In June, research by NiceRx, a website that provides affordable access to prescription drugs, found Rhode Island was the ninth top state in spending the most income on child care costs. That study found the average child care cost in Rhode Island was $13,696, 22% of yearly income.

Arkansas’ early childhood education system was ranked as the best in the nation, according to WalletHub’s analysis. That state was ranked fourth for access, first for quality, 16th for resources and economic support with an overall score of 74.66. Nebraska, Maryland and the District of Columbia rounded out the top five.

Massachusetts was ranked 38th. The Bay State was ranked 26th for access, 47th for quality, 19th for resources and economic support for an overall score of 41.23.

Across the rest of New England, Vermont was eighth, Connecticut was 20th, Main was 23rd and New Hampshire was 47th.

WalletHub’s report uses data from 2018-2021 collected from the National Institute for Early Education Research, Education Commission of the States and The National Women’s Law Center.

(Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.)

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