About Voluntary Prekindergarten
Florida 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 Education Program -- or VPK -- prepares early learners for success in kindergarten and beyond. VPK helps build a strong foundation for school using educational material corresponding to various stages in a child's development.
To be eligible, children must live in Florida and be 4 years old on or before Sept. 1 of the current school year. Effective July 1, 2016, a new law lets parents whose children are born between Feb. 2 and Sept. 1 of the calendar year postpone enrolling their 4-year-old until the following year when their child is 5. Parents can choose from different educational settings and various program options. Private child care centers, public schools and specialized instructional services providers offer VPK.
Children who attend high-quality preschool do better when they enter kindergarten, which can make a make a big difference later. An affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported in 2010 that "for every dollar invested today, savings range from $2.50 to as much as $17 in the years ahead." Research from Nobel laureate and economist James J. Heckman, of the University of Chicago, points to a seven- to ten-percent annual return on investment in high-quality preschool.
- Nearly 80 percent of Florida's 4-year-olds attend VPK.
- Florida is a national leader in prekindergarten access.
- In 2013, 82 percent of children who finished VPK were ready for kindergarten. Only 53 percent of children who didn't attend VPK were kindergarten ready.