“Expanding preschool is essential to ensure that all Virginians — regardless of income or background — acquire the education and skills they’ll need to participate and succeed in the new Virginia economy of the 21st century,” Governor McAuliffe said. “This grant is a big win for the children of the Commonwealth.”
The grant from the U.S. Department of Education will support expansion and improvement of the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) in 11 high-needs school divisions beginning in the 2015-2016 school year. VPI is a state-funded program that currently supports quality preschool programs for approximately 18,000 at-risk four-year-olds.
In addition to providing high-quality preschool experiences and activities, the selected divisions will offer focused outreach to families and communities, as well as individualized support for children with unique learning needs, including students with disabilities, English-language learners and children from military families. This combination of instruction, outreach and support will be known as VPI Plus.
The participating divisions are as follows:
- Brunswick County
- Chesterfield County
- Fairfax County
- Giles County
- Henrico County
- Prince William County
- Sussex County
The divisions were selected based on the following indicators of need: poverty, number of Title I schools, percentage of children entering kindergarten below the state’s literacy readiness benchmark and the number of unserved at-risk four-year-olds. Together, the divisions have committed to establishing 88 VPI Plus classrooms and improving services for children in 94 existing preschool classes.
“This exciting Preschool Expansion Grant is proof that Virginia’s dedication to early childhood education is recognized nationwide,” Secretary of Education Anne Holton said. “Access to high-quality early childhood education is a determining factor in future success, especially for at-risk young people.”
“Kindergarten readiness is the critical first step toward college and career readiness,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven R. Staples said. “Children who enter kindergarten with a solid foundation for learning are more likely to read on grade level by third grade and keep pace with their peers.”
“This new grant will enable the Commonwealth to expand access to high-quality preschool, which is an essential foundation for any student’s academic success,” said Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam. “This is an exciting opportunity for Virginia, and the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success looks forward to supporting the program.”
The grant also will fund a state-level effort — led by the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning at the University of Virginia (UVA) — to improve preparation and professional development for preschool teachers and administrators.
The awards were announced by President Obama during today’s White House Summit on Early Education as part of more than $1 billion in new federal and private-sector investments in early childhood education. The awards are first-year grants with the potential of continued funding for three additional years.
Governor McAuliffe thanked U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and U.S. Representatives Robert “Bobby” Scott, James Moran and Gerald Connolly for their hard work in support of the successful grant application.
The Virginia Department of Education will lead the implementation of the Commonwealth’s Preschool Expansion Grant, in partnership with the Virginia Department of Social Services, the Virginia Department of Health, UVA and VECF.