PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Angel Taveras wants to spend $42 million on new education programs by 2019, including creating a college fund for all newborn babies, expanding the widely-acclaimed Providence Talks initiative and providing “last dollar” scholarships to college students.
Taveras, who is leaving Providence after one term as mayor, said his 10-point “Rhode Island Achieves” proposal seeks to map out how “we can give our children a chance at a better life.” He kicked off his campaign for governor last fall by calling for universal pre-K for Rhode Island children.
“Providence public schools helped me go from growing up in public housing to serving as mayor of Providence,” Taveras said in a prepared statement. “I understand deeply how education has the power to transform a child’s life. I want to do everything I can to make sure every Rhode Island family has the same opportunity.”
Taveras is running in the Sept. 9 primary against state Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Clay Pell. The winner will take on the winner of the Republican primary between businessman Ken Block and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung. Incumbent Gov. Lincoln Chafee is not seeking re-election after one term in office.
The three Democrats have all released similar plans when it comes to education, with Taveras focusing on early childhood education, Raimondo pledging to pay teachers more, and Pell calling for college to be more affordable. Taveras was the last candidate to release his proposal.
In addition to his plan to universal pre-K, Taveras said every newborn child would automatically be enrolled in the state’s CollegeBoundfund, where they would start with a $100 investment from the state. Approximately 11,000 children are born in Rhode Island each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Taveras also said he wants to launch Rhode Island Talks, a spinoff of Providence Talks, which won a $5-million grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayor’s Challenge last year. The initiative seeks to help low-income children hear more words at a younger age, a strategy that experts say could increase reading proficiency down the line.
For elementary and secondary education, Taveras said he wants to invest $5 million annually to provide professional development to teachers while expanding extracurricular activities and increasing summer opportunities for students. He also said he wants to invest $800 million in school renovation projects over the next 15 years.
Like Pell and Raimondo before him, Taveras’s plan for higher education includes setting aside funds to help students pay for college. He said he wants to set aside about $5 million annually to provide up to $5,000 in “last dollar” scholarships to cover tuition for students after they’ve exhausted all other financial aid.
“We need to focus not just on K-12 education – but on supporting our students from cradle to career,” Taveras said. “We owe our children every opportunity to succeed and to be able to do it right here in Rhode Island. And we owe our teachers the support and resources they need to be able to help our students thrive.”