Florida led the way in early childhood education by being one of the first states to offer free pre-kindergarten education to all four-year-olds, regardless of their family’s income. The voluntary prekindergarten program–also known as VPK–began in 2005. Since then, this incredible program has benefited over 2.6 million children in Florida.
If you are a parent of a four-year-old (or a child who will soon turn four) and live in Florida, you can take advantage of this free program to ensure your child gets the education and support they need to succeed in kindergarten.
Parents and caregivers often have questions about the VPK program, such as who qualifies for free VPK in Florida or about the benefits of this type of early childhood education. This guide will answer these questions and help you find a VPK program near you.
Reach out to the dedicated team of educators at New Horizons Private School now to learn more about our exceptional VPK program or to schedule a tour of our learning center. We look forward to meeting you and your child soon.
What is VPK?
Voluntary prekindergarten–known as VPK–is an innovative program that provides free, high-quality prekindergarten education to all four-year-olds living in Florida. Parents and caregivers can choose from a wide range of public and private VPK programs. Every VPK program follows a standard curriculum that focuses on literacy, social skills, math, science, and other essential pre-K skills.
Research shows that children who attend a high-quality preschool program have better outcomes in all areas of school performance. They typically have fewer behavioral problems, better self-confidence, more independence, and can more easily learn the concepts presented in school.
VPK programs are available during the school year and during the summer. The school-year program provides 540 hours of instruction, and the summer VPK program offers 300 instructional hours.
School-year voluntary prekindergarten classes are small, with 11 or fewer children with a single teacher or 20 or fewer with a teacher plus an assistant. The summer VPK classes can include 12 children with a single teacher.
Children with special needs are eligible for VPK programs that include specialized instructional services (SIS).
Who Qualifies For Free VPK in Florida?
Florida’s VPK program is free to all 4-year-olds living in Florida. A child must turn four on or before September 1st to be eligible to attend VPK during the school year. Children whose birthdays occur between February 2nd and September 1st may attend VPK during that year or the subsequent year.
Parents or guardians must prove that their child meets eligibility for VP by providing proof of the child’s date of birth and Florida residency.
Valid proof of date of birth includes:
- An original or certified copy of the child’s birth certificate or birth record
- An original or certified copy of the child’s baptism record or other religious record of the child’s birth, as well as a notarized affidavit that the certificate is correct and true
- A life insurance policy for the child that has been in place for at least two years
- A passport or certificate of arrival in the United States
- An immunization record that has been signed by a doctor or public health officer
- A valid military dependant ID card
- An ID issued by a state or federal government
You may contact Florida’s Division of Early Learning to explore options for alternative documentation if you do not have any of the documents listed above for your child.
Valid proof of Florida residency includes:
- A utility (electric, water, gas) bill from the past 12 months
- A cable, internet, or phone bill from the previous 12 months
- A pay stub dated within a year of the date of your application
- A residential rental agreement or a receipt from a rental payment dated within a year of your application
- A military order that shows the child’s parent or legal guardian is a service member in the US Armed Forces and has been assigned to duty in Florida when the child is eligible to enroll in VPK
- A federal government order showing the child’s parent is a federal employee who has been assigned to work in Florida during the time the child will be eligible for VPK
- A Florida Migrant Education Program certificate of eligibility (COE) from the Florida Department of Education
Parents or guardians of children who are experiencing homelessness or those who do not have the documents listed above may contact the Division of Early Learning to explore other ways to prove their Florida residency.
Learn More About Free VPK in Florida
Voluntary prekindergarten programs can give children the best start toward a lifetime of learning and school success. High-quality education and nurturing care are available to your child at no cost to you through Florida’s free VPK program.
If you have a four-year-old child and live in Florida, reach out to the educators at New Horizons Private School to learn more about our outstanding VPK programs or schedule a tour of our school.