January 29, 2016
The start of the 2015-16 school year marked the beginning of the 10th year of Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program (VPK). In celebration of the milestone and in anticipation of a month-long celebration, a giant cake was enjoyed and a rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" could be heard reverberating throughout the capitol courtyard on Tuesday, which was also known as "Children's Capitol for a Day." In honor of the anniversary, Governor Rick Scott issued a
in which he recognized the program's success in equipping children for kindergarten and beyond.
VPK empowers parents to best meet their child's needs at a crucial and foundational stage for academic development by providing pre-kindergarten scholarships on a free, opt-in basis for Florida's 4-year-olds. The program has seen over 1.7 million children benefit from the instruction and services provided.
Despite its laudable mission, the program has experienced past funding cuts and current scholarship amounts fall short of the "high-water mark" of $2,677 per child reached during the 2007-2008 school year. Lower funding levels make it extremely difficult for schools to offer adequate instruction.
On Wednesday, Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Gaetz formally recommended level-funding the scholarships at $2,437 per child. On Thursday, House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Fresen recommended a $37-per child or 1.5-percent increase or $2,474 for the 2016-2017 school year. FCCB recommends a scholarship increase of at least $50 per child but sees the House recommendation as a step in the right direction