Gov. Dan McKee and Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos released the Rhode Island 2030 plan Oct. 15, outlining their vision for Rhode Island’s future in the coming decade.
“As Rhode Island emerges from a once-in-a-century public health crisis, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a more resilient, prosperous and equitable state for all,” McKee wrote in a letter at the beginning of the plan.
Informed by a series of virtual community conversations, the RI 2030 plan is intended to be a starting point for in-person public input sessions, which will take place over the coming weeks. Feedback from these discussions will inform the development of final goals for 2030 that can guide future state investments, according to the plan.
The plan includes a number of sectors as areas of focus, including education, housing, economic growth, small businesses and health care. Each policy area includes short-term and long-term recommendations and discusses the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on that area.
The recommendations in the plan range from broad goals to more specific suggestions. Examples include implementing universal pre-K for children ages three and four, ensuring universal access to health insurance for children and easing regulations and access to capital for small businesses.
Jonathan Collins, assistant professor of international and public affairs and education, noted the plan’s emphasis on closing the digital divide — which refers to the disparity in student access to technology between school districts — and updating Rhode Island’s historically poorly maintained school buildings.
“What you see here is investments in capital projects that can be one-time purchases that can have long-term impacts,” Collins said.
Nate Schwartz, associate professor of practice at the Annenberg Institute, said that the plan’s recommendations regarding education policy feel “mostly right at the high level.” Schwartz praised how the plan lays out short-term actions based on recovering from the pandemic, such as an increased focus on mental health services and prioritization of student engagement.
But Schwartz also expressed concerns that the plan lacks specifics about implementation and does not prioritize its stated goals. Many reform efforts struggle because of instability in leadership or shifting priorities, Schwartz said, “or because many states try to do too many things at once instead of focusing on a more select subset that they can do well.”
Though Roger Williams University’s HousingWorks RI was consulted in development of the plan, Director Brenda Clement still saw room for improvement. “The broad ideas are right on,” Clement said. “How we implement them still needs further discussion and input.”
Clement appreciated the inclusion of recommendations to increase the supply of affordable housing and reform land use and zoning. She also emphasized the interconnection of the issues within the plan, noting that housing also has impacts on health outcomes, workforce development and economic growth.
Doris De Los Santos, director of the Center for Women and Enterprise, said that though the CWE was not personally consulted, they attended the virtual community conversations and provided input. “We were thrilled and excited to see small businesses were front and center in the plan and are seen as a solution for economic growth for the state,” she said.
De Los Santos particularly supported the plan’s recommendation to expand access to capital for women and people of color. More specifically, she hoped the state would lower barriers to procuring the Minority or Women Business Enterprise certification.
Because female-owned businesses can often be challenged by the costs of childcare, De Los Santos valued the inclusion of expanded child care services in the plan.
Ultimately, De Los Santos said she hoped the recommendations in the plan will be “supported with a real investment of dollars.”