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Northam: Va. preschool programs expect to see record enrollment

Students in an early childhood program sit at tables.
Students in an early childhood program sit at tables.
Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 11:59 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia’s state-funded preschool programs are expecting to see historic enrollment numbers for the upcoming school year, according to an announcement from Gov. Ralph Northam.

The state department of education’s Virginia Preschool Initiative and the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation’s Mixed Delivery Preschool Grant Program are expected to serve more than 25,000 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds this year.

  • Virginia Preschool Initiative: Expected to serve 23,600 students across 126 school divisions
    • 1,600 3-year-olds will be served across 37 school districts
  • Virginia Early Childhood Foundation: Expected to serve 1,500 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds across 45 localities

Northam credited the enrollment numbers to an increase in funding for the two programs. During fiscal year 2018, the commonwealth spent roughly $90.7 million on the initiatives. In 2022, the programs will receive $151.6 million, an increase of more than $60 million.

“Increasing school readiness is more important than ever as we recover from the pandemic, and this historic commitment puts us one step closer to offering a great start for all Virginia children,” Northam said in a release.

Families with young children earning up to 85% of the state median income are temporarily eligible for Virginia’s Child Care Subsidy Program, which is currently serving 20,000 children. More than $316 million from the 2020 federal relief dollars were spent on Virginia’s early childhood system, according to the release.

As a result of the federal funding, 95% of licensed and regulated child care and early education programs are now open, Northam said.

Northam noted that Federal Head Start and Early Head Start Programs are funded to serve 14,463 children this school year and all sites are working towards full in-person enrollment by Jan. 1.

The Virginia Department of Education recently acquired oversight for all publicly funded early childhood programs following a law change on July 1. Its new Division of Early Childhood Care and Education includes 120 full-time employees.

Resources for Virginia families:

Families can find more information on the Virginia Preschool Initiative here.

Details on the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and the mixed-delivery grant initiative here.

Apply to the Child Care Subsidy Program at this link.

To learn about Head Start and Early Head Start, contact your local school division.

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