Rhode Island is currently under investigation by federal education officials for its compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which mandates special education services for young children with developmental delays starting at age three. This follows a Target 12 investigation exposing that dozens of young children in the state, particularly in Providence, are not receiving the federally mandated education. At least 34 children (between the ages of 3 to 5) are affected by the issue, and lawmakers, parents, and advocates have called for reform. Paige Clausius-Parks, the executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Rhode Island Kids Count, is advocating for a slate of measures to address the staffing shortage in early childhood special education, including increasing pay for early educators and creating a special education ombud to act as an independent watchdog. Rhode Island has been grappling with Early Intervention waiting lists for over a year, which are technically illegal, resulting in thousands of children waiting for an evaluation or determination. Officials from the Rhode Island Department of Education previously acknowledged knowing about the impending pre-K crisis last spring.

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