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.
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 child care centers offer VPK.