What is VPK

The Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program – or VPK – is a free prekindergarten program for 4 and 5-year-olds who reside in Florida. Participating children must be 4 year of age on or before September 1. Parents can enroll their child in the state’s free, voluntary prekindergarten (VPK) education program that year or wait until the following year when their child is 5. Click here for more information.

Benefits of early education and the VPK program

  • The most important growth and development in the brain happens by the age of five.
  • The early years are the learning years. A child’s ability to be attentive and to follow directions emerges in the early years. Structured early learning fosters these abilities for later success in school and in life.
  • Pre-K prepares children to be ready for school. Children who participate in high-quality early childhood education programs develop better language skills, score higher in school-readiness tests and have better social skills and fewer behavioral problems once they enter school. They are also better prepared for Kindergarten, especially in the areas of pre-reading, pre-math and social skills.
  • Pre-K promotes a love of learning in children. Pre-K enhances what a child learns at home and instills a love of life-long learning.

Highlights of the VPK Program

FREE for all children who live in Florida

  • No registration fee
  • Parents may choose a participating private child care or public school provider
  • Early language and literacy focus

Curriculum

  • Focuses on reading, writing and social skills
  • Prepares children to be ready for Kindergarten

VPK Program Options

  • Option 1: school-year VPK – 540 instructional hours.
  • Option 2: summer VPK – 300 instructional hours.

VPK Providers

  • Parents have the option of choosing the provider that meets their own family’s needs
  • Options include: private and faith-based child care centers, private and public schools and licensed family child care homes
  • All VPK providers must meet high standards required by law

Instructors

  • Ratios are 1 instructor to 11 children
  • Class size will not exceed 20 children in the school-year program, and will not exceed 12 children for the summer program
  • All VPK instructors must have a minimum of a child development associate for the school-year program, or a bachelor’s degree in early childhood or related fields for the summer program, click here for summer VPK instructor requirements.

Transportation

Parents are responsible for their child’s transportation

VPK legislation was signed into law by Governor Jeb Bush on January 2, 2005. This law created a program to prepare every Florida four-year-old for Kindergarten and to build a strong foundation for their continued educational success.

The VPK program will better prepare Florida’s young children for a successful Kindergarten experience by focusing the Department of Education’s efforts on early literacy. This legislation assigns responsibilities for the day-to-day management of the program to the Office of Early Learning (OEL); licensing and credentialing to the Department of Children and Families (DCF); and the creation of standards, curriculum, and accountability to the Department of Education (DOE). All three agencies are working together to provide leadership and support to the local early learning coalitions, school districts, and public and private providers to ensure the successful implementation of effective prekindergarten education programs for Florida’s four-year-old children.

Historical Perspective of the Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK)

1978
Florida created a State Migrant Prekindergarten Program using Migrant and Title I funds.

1987
Florida established the Prekindergarten Early Intervention program to serve low income three and four-year-olds. As of 2000, these two programs served more than 20,000 children.

1999
The Florida Legislature passed the School Readiness Act that consolidated the state’s early education programs into a more cohesive, efficient, and integrated school readiness system. The goal of this massive restructuring was to increase children’s chances of achieving future educational success and becoming productive members of society.

2001
A state-level governing board known as the Florida Partnership for School Readiness was created to coordinate statewide efforts.

November 2002
Florida voters approved – with 58.6% of the vote – a ballot initiative to change Florida’s Constitution to require that high quality Prekindergarten be made available on a voluntary basis to all four-year-old children in the state by September 2005.

April 2003
The State Board of Education (SBE) established an Advisory Council to make recommendations for the implementation of a quality program consistent with the requirements of the constitutional amendment. Governor Jeb Bush appointed Lt. Governor Toni Jennings as chair of the UPK (now VPK) Advisory Council.

June-October 2003
The Council conducted nine meetings and conference calls in order to collect information for recommendations to be made to the State Board of Education.

December 2003
The State Board of Education revised the UPK Advisory Council’s recommendations, which were forwarded to the Florida Legislature.

May 2004
The Florida Legislature passed what was considered by many to be a fundamentally flawed bill that did not include provisions to phase in certified teachers with college degrees, an acceptable teacher-child ratio, or a strong curriculum to guide what children learn.

July 2004
Governor Jeb Bush vetoed the Pre-K bill, saying that it did not meet the necessary high quality standards.

December 2004
In a special session of the Florida Legislature HB 1A was passed creating the Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) Education Program.

January 2005
Governor Jeb Bush signed the VPK legislation into law.

August 2005
Thousands of four-year-olds attend the first day of the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program.

Summer 2006
Thousands of four-year-old children participate in the Summer VPK Program.