Parents want the best for their children — good grades, college, and a career. It all starts with a strong foundation of learning. Your child’s brain goes through the most important growth and development by age 5. Children who attend high-quality preschool do much better when they reach kindergarten. It can make a huge difference in their success throughout life.
That’s why it is important that your child attend Voluntary Prekindergarten. VPK is free of charge to all 4-year-old children in Florida regardless of family income. The high-quality learning opportunity builds a strong academic structure. VPK uses educational materials for specific stages of your child’s development to prepare them for school.
Voluntary Prekindergarten began as an amendment passed by Florida voters in November 2002, then signed into law in January 2005 with its implementation in August 2005. Together, with both the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County and Early Learning Coalition of Osceola County, 4C provides these services to eligible families. The program is enriched with early learning activities, experiences and a high curricula standards to fit each child’s developmental needs. Participation is completely voluntary.
Voluntary Prekindergarten is free for all children who are 4 years old on or before Sept. 1, reside in Florida, and who are not participating in the Gardiner Scholarship Program. Parents whose children are born from Feb. 2 through Sept. 1 of a calendar year may choose to enroll their child in VPK in either the school-year their child turns 4 or the next.
Parents can choose from one of the following programs:
- School-Year Program: Provides 540 instructional hours, with class sizes of 20 or fewer students. Instructors must hold a Birth through Five Florida Child Care Professional Credential and meet standard background screening requirements.
- Summer Program: Provides 300 instructional hours, with class sizes of 12 or fewer students. Instructors must hold a Bachelor’s degree and meet standard background screening requirements.
- Specialized Instructional Services Program (SIS): For children with special needs and/or disabilities that have an established Individualized Education Plan (IEP); VPK funding is allocated for an IEP service(s); hours will vary.
For more information, visit Florida’s Office of Early Learning VPK website
Where Can Your Child Attend VPK?
Public, private, and faith-based providers may be eligible to deliver the program depending on whether they meet the minimum standards required in law. A private prekindergarten provider may establish and use criteria to determine whether to admit a child for services in the school-year or summer programs. Criteria must be objective and apply uniformly for all children. Florida law prohibits VPK providers from discriminating against children or their parents on the grounds of race, color, or national origin, including the refusal to admit a child to the VPK program.
Florida law also prohibits providers from requiring enrollment into other services as a condition of VPK enrollment. VPK 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 in a VPK program. State law does not, however, prohibit a provider from charging registration fees for child care provided before and/or after the VPK program. Providers may also charge late fees for children not picked up at the end of the VPK program. Make sure you understand the policies of the program you are considering before your child attends.
To search for all relevant information pertaining to child care providers, click here.
How to Enroll
Parents must use Florida’s Early Learning Family Portal to enroll a child in VPK. Here are videos to help you become familiar with the process:
The VPK Provider Kindergarten Readiness Rate is a measurement of how well a Voluntary Prekindergarten provider prepares 4-year-olds for kindergarten. VPK Standards describe what 4-year-old children should know and be able to perform by the end of the VPK program. To find out more information regarding the VPK Readiness Rate and to search for individual provider readiness rates, click here.