Voluntary Pre K

VOLUNTARY PREKINDERGARTEN

Two little girls on a busFlorida was one of the first states in the country to offer free prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds regardless of family income. The Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program prepares early learners for success in kindergarten and beyond. Children must live in Florida and be 4 years old on or before September 1 of the current year to be eligible. The program helps build a strong foundation for school using educational materials that are geared to various stages in a child’s development.

Parents can choose from different educational settings and various program options. Private child care centers, public schools and specialized instructional services providers offer VPK.

A school-year program provides 540 hours of instruction with class sizes of no more than 20 children. A summer program includes 300 instructional hours and class sizes no larger than 12 students. Parents who have 4-year-old children with special needs may choose the VPK Specialized Instructional Services educational program, where certified or licensed professionals provide instruction in individual or small group settings. This option requires the child to have a current individual education plan from a local school district.

Children who attend high-quality preschool do much better when they get to kindergarten, and this makes an enormous difference for their later success.
An affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce found in a 2010 report that “for every dollar invested today, savings range from $2.50 to as much as $17 in the years ahead.” Research by the University of Chicago economist James J. Heckman, a Nobel laureate, points to a 7- to 10-percent annual return on investment in high-quality preschool.

Interesting facts.Child and teacher with tambourines

  • About 80 percent of all Florida 4-year-olds attend VPK.
  • Florida is first in the nation for pre-K access.
  • In 2011-12, 79 percent of children who finished VPK were ready for kindergarten. Only 55 percent of children who didn’t go to VPK were kindergarten ready.
  • Florida has raised the bar for VPK providers who get public dollars, requiring 70 percent of children who attend be ready for kindergarten. In 2011-12, the percentage of VPK programs that met the higher standards rose to 72 percent from 68 percent in 2010-11.

Resources.