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 (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. To begin applying for VPK, click here. You will need to create an account using an email and password. Once you create an account, you will receive an email confirmation with the VPK link to begin the application process.
Voluntary Prekindergarten Background
A law that took effect July 1, 2016, extends VPK eligibility for 4-year-olds with birthdays from Feb. 2 through Sept. 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. This allows parents of younger 4-year-olds to postpone the year their child begins VPK, enabling the child to begin kindergarten and start first grade as a slightly older, more mature student. Children in Florida are not required to attend either the state’s prekindergarten or kindergarten programs, but are required to attend school the year they turn 6 by Feb. 1. Four year-old children with birthdays from Feb. 2 through Sept. 1 are eligible to enroll in VPK that year or postpone it to the next. The law does not affect 4-year-olds with birthdays from Sept. 2 through Feb. 1.
How do I know what year (or years) for which my child may be eligible?
Eligibility is determined by your child’s birth date. When you apply for VPK through the Family Portal, the system will give you a prompt based on the date of birth you enter for your child.
Can my child attend VPK for two years?
No. Each child is eligible to attend VPK once. Some families will have a choice to send their child to VPK in one year or another based on the child’s birthdate.
Why can’t all parents have the option to choose the year their child attends VPK?
Florida law requires children to attend school the year the child is 6 years old by Feb. 1. Not all children would be able to go to VPK a year later because they would turn 6 by Feb. 1.
When can I begin my child’s VPK application in the Family Portal?
You can begin your child’s VPK application in the Family Portal beginning Jan. 1 of the program year. For example, you may apply for the 2019-20 program year beginning Jan. 1, 2019.
What happens after I complete my online VPK application?
There may be a wait of up to three (3) business days while we review your application. You will then receive instruction via the email address you used to apply.
- You are able to print your child’s Certificate of Eligibility to take to the approved VPK provider of your choice. Click here to apply online.
- If the application is rejected, the email you receive will provide further instructions.
(Notice to Apple device users, if you experience difficulty in reaching the Family Portal with Safari, access by downloading and using Google Chrome or Firefox.)
My family does not have access to a computer to apply for VPK online. How can I apply?
There are computers available for use at 4C offices in both Orange and Osceola counties. The VPK application can be also accessed through any internet-enabled smartphone or device, click here.
For addresses and hours of operation at 4C offices, click here.
What happens if my child already has a certificate of eligibility for the 2018-19 program year and I want to send my child to the 2019-20 program instead?
You may postpone your child’s VPK until the 2019-20 if your child did not attend a 2018-19 VPK program. If your child has already attended VPK, but not more than 70 percent of the program, please contact your early learning coalition to apply for a reenrollment into the subsequent program year.
How do I postpone my child’s enrollment in VPK?
You can postpone your child’s enrollment into VPK by logging in to your Family Portal account, click here.
Can I change my mind to postpone my child’s VPK once they have started kindergarten?
No. Florida law states that a child is no longer eligible for VPK once they enroll in kindergarten.
Where can families access the parent handbook (Form OEL-VPK 07) and parent guide (OEL-VPK 06)?
Families have the opportunity to review and download the parent handbook and parent guide when they apply for VPK on the Family Portal. It is also available online, click here
Once an early learning coalition determines a child is eligible for VPK and approves the child’s application, is there a reason a parent would have to resubmit proof of age or residency documentation?
No. We do not have to re-verify eligibility documentation once a child has been determined to be eligible for the program. When a family requests to change the VPK application to a different coalition service area, coalitions will coordinate to change the county of services in the Family Portal.
How recent does proof of residency documentation (such as a utility bill, lease, or pay stub) need to be when submitted with a child’s application?
Documentation must be dated within 12 months of the date the child’s application is submitted in order to be approved.
How do families document residency if they are homeless?
Families may submit documents showing that the child is homeless and resides in Florida. This can be a letter from a homeless shelter, a homeless referral or a notarized statement from the child’s parent.
Where can families find VPK Provider Profiles in their area?
VPK Provider Profiles can be found on the Department of Children and Families CARES website, click here, or you can contact 4C Child Care Resource & Referral, learning providers and other services that may be available to you. To contact CCR&R:
- Orange County: (407) 522-2252
- Osceola County: (321) 219-6300
What documentation does a VPK provider need in order to enroll a child in their VPK program?
There are two documents a provider may accept — the Child Certificate of Eligibility (Form OEL-VPK 02, May 2016) or the Certificate of Eligibility for Reenrollment (Form OEL-VPK 04, May 2016). Once a VPK provider has your certificate, the VPK provider enters the enrollment into the Family Portal.
What is an IEP and why do I need one?
An IEP, or Individual Educational Plan, is only needed for children enrolling in VPK Specialized Instructional Services (SIS). If your child in not enrolling in VPK SIS, you do not need to upload an IEP.
My child is VPK eligible and has special needs. What services are available?
For parents of 4-year-old children with disabilities who need educational experiences outside the traditional VPK classroom setting, Florida offers VPK Specialized Instructional Services (VPK SIS). If your child has a current Individual Educational Plan (IEP) from your local school district that calls for specialized instructional services, you can choose VPK SIS instead of traditional VPK school-year or summer programs. To register, you must apply online and select the SISP program option. You will need to upload your child’s birth certificate, proof of residency and your child’s current IEP plan. Then, call the VPK office in Orange County at (407) 532-4155 or Osceola County at (321) 219-6300 for further instructions. For more information on the VPK SIS program, click here.
Can I enroll my child in the Summer VPK program in addition to the Fall VPK program?
No, you may enroll for either the fall or the summer program, but not for both.
Will the VPK program provide transportation?
Florida law specifies that each parent is responsible for the transportation of his or her child to and from the VPK program. Some VPK providers may offer transportation services at an additional cost, and families are encouraged to explore these options before choosing a VPK provider.
Can I transfer my child to another provider?
Yes, you may transfer your child to another VPK provider during the program year and only if your child has not used 70 percent of the available hours (378 hours fall or 210 hours summer). To receive a transfer Certificate of Eligibility:
- Orange County: All transfers are now available online as a re-enrollment request by visiting your child’s online application.
- Osceola County: All transfers are now available online as a re-enrollment request by visiting your child’s online application.
How much does it cost to enroll in a VPK program?
The VPK program is FREE for eligible children, regardless of family income. Providers are not permitted to charge a fee (registration, supplies, etc.) or require parents to agree to any additional services as a condition for enrolling their child into a VPK program. However, state law does not prohibit a provider from charging registration fees for care provided before/after the VPK program. Providers may also charge late fees for children not picked up in a timely manner at the end of the program. A provider may charge a fee for uniforms as part of the program’s policy. If a VPK provider asks for any type of fees as a condition for participating in the VPK program, please contact 4C: Orange County at (407) 532-4155 or Osceola County at (407) 933-5353.
What if I have other children that do not qualify for VPK?
4C administers the Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) program on behalf of both the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County and Early Learning Coalition of Osceola County. To learn about all legally operating early learning providers and other services that may be available to you, please contact CCR&R:
- Orange County: (407) 522-2252
- Osceola County: (321) 219-6300
What if my child is absent from the VPK program?
You must carefully read, understand and sign the provider’s policy regarding attendance. This policy may include but not limited to absences, tardiness, daily sign in/out, monthly verification, and/or hours of instruction.
What are some other resources?
Readiness Rate Link | Head Start/Early Head Start
Early Learning Coalition of Orange County
Early Learning Coalition of Osceola County
Florida Office of Early Learning | Department of Children and Families (DCF)
Orange County School District | Osceola County School District
Florida KidCare | OEL Resources
For more information or technical assistance please contact the Office of Early Learning’s VPK Unit by phone at 1-866-447-1159 or by email at VPKquestions@oel.myflorida.com