Posted on November 14, 2023
Cynthia Rice, senior policy analyst for Advocates for Children of New Jersey, will retire at the end of 2023 after 31 years of service. Known to most as “Cyndie,” her expertise and decades-long experience in policymaking, keen sense of political strategy, and strong relationship-building have helped advance many of ACNJ’s wins for children. Whether meeting with lawmakers in Trenton or at the nation’s Capitol, her sole focus has always been improving the lives of children.
- Leading the effort year after year, to increase funding for preschool expansion and provide direct advocacy support to child care providers, parents, and school administrators to expand pre-K in their districts. Cyndie was instrumental in ACNJ’s effort to bring high-quality public preschool to thousands of 3- and 4-year-olds, beginning with the state Supreme Court landmark decision, “Abbott v Burke,” which mandated public preschool in 31 of the state’s poorest districts. Since its implementation in 1999, the number of districts with state-funded full-day, quality preschool has grown to 277, reaching more than 50,000 students every year.
- Her work on pre-K to 3rd grade alignment underscoring the need to maximize and sustain the gains from preschool to ensure that children are reading on grade level by 3rd grade--a key factor in future school success.
- Ushering key legislation that has helped thousands of New Jerseyans, including the state’s College Credit Transfer Law known as the “Lampitt Law,” which made transferring credits from a community college to a four-year institution more seamless.
- Bringing attention to the long-term implications of student absences, leading to the state’s 2018 chronic absenteeism law.
- Leading numerous legislative and congressional visits that included both child care providers and parents to amplify their critical needs. These visits have deepened relationships with New Jersey’s congressional delegation and key legislators to help develop leadership for child care issues. Cyndie’s dedication to the child care industry was never more evident than during the pandemic. Recognizing the fragile state of the industry due to mandated closures, staff shortages and low enrollment, Cyndie led advocacy efforts to secure and strategically utilize the American Rescue Plan Funds, which served as a critical lifeline to New Jersey’s child care system, earning her the NJAEYC Advocate of the Year Award in 2021.
Prior to joining ACNJ, Cyndie worked as an assistant district attorney in the Bronx focused on child abuse and domestic violence cases. There, she saw firsthand how poverty affects children's learning and their opportunities for future success. She distinctly remembers a case that involved a 6-year-old who needed to identify a suspect in a police lineup, but did not know her numbers. This was just one of many experiences that had a profound impact and she eventually pivoted her focus to education policy, with a strong conviction that poverty should not be the deciding factor of a child's future.
Cyndie's skills in building relationships with policymakers, practitioners, and other advocates, have contributed in large part to ACNJ’s advocacy success. She has received numerous awards in recognition of her service and dedication to children - most recently, YWCA Northern New Jersey’s Walking The Talk Award and the NJAEYC 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award. Cyndie’s tenacity and humor will be deeply missed and we wish her the very best in retirement.