In Virginia, 2,784 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start programs and 17 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs. The Virginia Preschool Initiative, which operates in 88 percent of the state’s school districts, has served at-risk 4-year-olds who are not enrolled in preschool programs. However, the Washington Post reports that, due to the state’s continued struggle with funding preschool, hundreds of Virginia business leaders have lobbied for “more high-quality preschool opportunities.” The average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $10,028.
- What the Governor is saying: In Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s 2014 State of the State address he mentions the need to expand early childhood education access across the state.
- What’s happening in the Legislature: In February, the legislature debated a new funding formula for pre-K programs which could cause 32 localities to lose nearly 900 pre-K slots statewide, but last year thousands of slots went unfilled because communities did not contribute matching fund. However, there were new legislative bills that did target improving and strengthening early learning in the state. The Virginia S.B. 2068 requires local school divisions to provide early intervention services not only from grade 3, but to pre-K-3rd-grade students who demonstrate deficiencies based on their individual performance on diagnostic reading tests.
- Funding increases and additional support: The Washington Post reported that in Virginia, more than 6,000 disadvantaged children “missed the opportunity to go to school before kindergarten” because localities did not contribute required matching funds to take “full advantage of the program.” There were several major school districts that continue to struggle with funding preschool options. A new report from Mission: Readiness found that Fairfax County “remains far behind neighboring districts in providing preschool for children from low-income families,” partly due to the challenge of the state’s preschool funding plan including a local match. And a Washington Post editorial discussed why Virginia’s second-largest school system, Prince William County, has “all but ignored low-income 4-year-olds” who are not benefiting from the state-funded pre-K program. The editorial cites that the county “ponied up only enough to garner state funding for 72 children just 4 percent of the 1,663 who were eligible for the program.”