ANeSU launches universal pre-K
BRISTOL — When Addison Northeast Supervisory Union (ANeSU) welcomed students back last month, the student body included almost 140 preschoolers as ANeSU became an “early adopter” of universal prekindergarten services for children in its five towns. ANeSU estimates universal preK opportunities this year, as enrollment continues to climb, will support 70 percent or more of the ANeSU preschool population. Through school board leadership and a commitment of the entire educational community, the supervisory union is poised to provide high-quality instruction at the earliest opportunity.
There is overwhelming evidence that high-quality early learning and development is a good, sound public investment. The economic benefits of investing in early childhood result in future higher earnings as better educated children turn into adults. In addition, investing in early childhood lowers avoidable costs of child welfare, remedial education, police and corrections, individuals with addiction, and unemployed, underemployed, unproductive and unhealthy adults.
In the 2014 Legislative Session, legislators passed and Gov. Shumlin signed Act 166, An Act Related to Universal Publicly Funded Prekindergarten, which requires all Vermont school districts to provide universal publicly funded prekindergarten education for a minimum of 10 hours per week for 35 weeks annually for all 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children who are not enrolled in kindergarten. Public funding provided through the passage of Act 166 supports high-quality early learning and development for preschoolers in Vermont in a program with a licensed teacher. By supporting quality in early education, we increase access for families who expect quality early learning and provide children with the best possible early start to life.
Although Act 166 has been passed, many supervisory unions have chosen to wait until next year to fully implement the law. ANeSU is at the forefront of the implementation of universal access to preschool as an “early adopter.” Beginning this school year, families in the towns of ANeSU can access universal preschool options through our 23 partner programs in both Chittenden and Addison counties.
The universal prekindergarten services are provided at a mix of school-based and private programs, giving families a choice in the location and type of program that will best meet their family’s needs. Providing high-quality early learning opportunities for families often requires full-day, full-year coverage as many families work full time. It involves many additional costs to providers like hiring a licensed teacher, improving quality standards, etc. Currently, public support funds 10 hours per week during the academic year, and families who opt for full-time care will pay the balance of the child care fees. Early childhood programs that are eligible and interested in partnering with ANeSU and other supervisory unions to offer universal pre-K must become “prequalified,” a process that involves a quality rating and assurance of various other requirements. A complete list of prequalified partner programs is available on the Early Education webpage at www.anesu.org.
For ANeSU families who not familiar with universal pre-K and wanting to know more, below are important details about what is available for preschoolers:
• Eligible children are those who have turned 3, 4 or 5 by Sept. 1, 2015, who are not attending kindergarten, and who are residents of Bristol, Lincoln, Starksboro, Monkton or New Haven.
• ANeSU preschool children can access any prequalified program (school-based, registered child care home or licensed early child care center) in Vermont. Prequalified programs have met certain quality standards set by the Agency of Education and are eligible for partnership with ANeSU. A list of current partner programs is available at ANeSU’s website: anesu.org.
• Preschool funding covers 10 hours per week for 35 weeks (i.e., September to June). Contact your preschool provider for information regarding scheduling and program fees for additional program time.
• If a family is interested in a prequalified program that does not currently have a partnership with ANeSU, they may ask the program to enter into a contract for the purposes of enrolling their child in the ANeSU universal pre-K programming.
• Parents can access just pre-K (no cost) or a combination of pre-K and childcare services, depending on the program they have selected. (Childcare fees still apply for hours of care beyond the 10 hours of Pre-K at center or home-based programs.)
• Parents who want to send their child to a pre-K program other than the public school will need to complete enrollment paperwork for both ANeSU and the prequalified child care program to access universal pre-K. Most partner programs are able to provide both sets of enrollment paperwork and assist families with the completion of the forms.