Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK)

The Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK) is a program that offers free of cost kindergarten for all 4-years-olds. Florida was one of the first states in the US to implement VPK regardless of the family’s income.

VPK is offered by private childcare centers, public schools, and specialized instructional services providers. It promotes early learners towards accomplishment in the early lives of kindergarten and beyond. It establishes a firm basis for school education incorporating resources and educational material corresponding to several stages in the development of a child.

The child enrolling in VPK must be 4-years-old and a citizen of Florida effective 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.

Children who attend high-quality preschool do better when they enter kindergarten, which can 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.

With VPK’s primary focus on early literacy skills, accountability, manageable class sizes, and qualified instructors, it enables a child’s better performance at school and throughout life with quality programs consisting of the age-appropriate curriculum.

Various programs and educational settings are offered from private and public providers for parents to choose from. Providers have the flexibility to structure daily hours per week to meet the required number of instructional hours.

School-Year Program – 540 Instructional Hours
Class sizes are not to exceed 11 students with a single lead instructor, or up to 20 students with a lead instructor and an assistant. Instructors must have a minimum of a Florida Child Care Professional Credential.

Summer Program – 300 Instructional Hours
Classes are not to exceed 12 students with a single lead instructor. Instructors must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.

VPK Specialized Instructional Services Education Program
It takes place outside a traditional classroom setting and is designed for 4-year-olds with special needs who have current individualized educational plans from local school districts.

Interesting Facts

  • Nearly 80 percent of Florida’s 4-year-olds attend VPK.
  • Florida is a national leader in prekindergarten access.
  • In the 2016-2017 school year, nearly 80 percent of 4-year-olds in Florida attended VPK.
  • Around 6,200 private, public, and charter schools and private childcare centers offer VPK.