RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that Virginia has been awarded a $17.5 million federal Preschool Expansion Grant that will allow the Commonwealth to serve as many as 1,600 additional at-risk four-year-olds in new, high-quality preschool classes. In addition, the grant will fund enhanced services to approximately 1,400 children in existing pre-kindergarten classrooms.
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:
Prince William 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 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 Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF) led the commonwealth’s grant application effort. Virginia is one of 18 states to receive either a preschool expansion or preschool development grant.
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.