Voluntary Pre-K & School Choice Options in Florida

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Many people stationed at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay live in Florida, just over the Georgia-Florida border. If you have kids and live in Florida, here is some useful information regarding Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) and the Florida Department of Education’s School Choice options.

Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten

Florida offers free voluntary pre-kindergarten to state residents. We moved to the area at the beginning of COVID and had a difficult time finding information regarding how to enroll our oldest in pre-k. Here is some helpful information regarding this program:

  • VPK is offered for children who turn 4 on or before September 1 of the current school year.
  • The family must reside in Florida and have a current Florida address to apply for a certificate of eligibility.
  • Program options include private centers, public schools, and specialized instructional providers. Many private centers provide “wrap around” care, which you pay for out of pocket
  • VPK is offered during the school year or during the summer. The school year provides 540 instructional hours and the summer provides 300 instructional hours
  • Contact your county’s Early Learning Coalition to help find local providers
  • Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility and bring it to your chosen pre-k provider to secure a spot

One issue we ran into while moving to the area was getting our certificate of eligibility. If you are looking to enroll your child in a VPK program, make sure you carefully read over the required documents, including proof of physical address.

Family Empowerment Scholarship Program

This is commonly referred to as a school choice option and scholarships for educational options. While we have not personally used this scholarship program, this is a program that allows families more options when it comes to K-12 schools, providing scholarships for kids to attend participating private schools. The traditional program has income restrictions. However, military dependents are exempt from those qualifications.

To participate in this program, interested families need to apply to one of the two scholarship funding organizations. Information on how to apply can be found here. These organizations are responsible for determining if a family is eligible for the program as well as awarding and distributing funding. Applications for the 2023-2024 school year open in March.

More information on special academic programs offered by Florida for military families can be found here.

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