Universal pre-K delayed one year

By Hilary Niles, VTDigger.org

The implementation of Vermont’s universal pre-kindergarten mandate, signed into law with much fanfare in May, will be delayed for a year. State officials made the announcement Wednesday, Nov. 26, citing challenges with rule-making and school budget processes.

Act 166 requires publicly funded pre-kindergarten education to be offered for a minimum of 10 hours per week for 35 weeks annually for all 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds who are not enrolled in kindergarten.

The legislation was to go into effect in the 2015-16 school year.

State officials say the rules governing the program won’t become final until spring, which doesn’t allow local school districts enough time to integrate the cost of programs into local budgets, which are voted on Town Meeting Day, the first Tuesday in March.

In a letter to school districts, Rebecca Holcombe, secretary of the Agency of Education, and Harry Chen, the secretary of the Agency of Human Services, said schools should budget for pre-kindergarten programs in the 2016-17 school year.

The AOE and the Department for Children and Families will work with school districts that are ready to move ahead with their own pre-K plans for the coming school year.

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