Universal preschool in Vermont will be delayed until the 2016-17 school year in order to give local towns time to plan their school budgets.
A Nov. 25 memo from the Vermont education department said that “final clarity on the necessary expenditures for universal access to prekindergarten will not be known, with reasonable certainty, until June of 2015 at the earliest. Accordingly, Vermont’s school boards will not be able to prepare proposed budgets to voters that reflect reliable prekindergarten costs until Town Meeting Day 2016.” (Vermont’s Town Meeting Day, held the first Tuesday in March, is a state holiday during which budgets are approved and municipal officers are elected.)
The Vermont universal pre-K law requires school districts to offer at least 10 hours of instruction per week for 35 weeks to 3- and 4-year-olds. Enrollment is voluntary. Only 37 of the state’s 270+ school districts do not offer prekindergarten, but most of those districts offer fewer than 10 hours a week, according to a policy analysis from Building Bright Futures, a state early childhood advocacy organization.
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, Vermont ranked 4th among all the states and the District of Columbia in providing access to preschool to 4-year-olds. Seventy-one percent of its 4-year-olds were enrolled in a program during the 2012-13 school year, the most recent year collected by NIEER.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.