RICHMOND -Governor Timothy M, Kaine today joined students and teachers at St. James’s Children’s Center in downtown Richmond to applaud the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) and the Virginia Star Quality Initiative, two programs that increase access and quality of instruction for pre-K students in the Commonwealth. The two programs help provide Virginia children with a strong education foundation, preparing them for a lifetime of learning.
“Virginia’s early childhood initiatives are yielding great results for pre-K learners and I’m very pleased with the support that legislators, educators and parents are showing for our programs,” Governor Kaine said. “Ninety percent of brain development occurs before a child’s fifth birthday, and we know that by instilling an early joy and respect for learning, we can maximize the potential of every child in the Commonwealth.”
The Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) supports localities’ efforts to create or upgrade preschool programs and enroll four-year-olds not being served by the federally-funded Head Start program. VPI is state-funded, with localities sharing program costs.
Governor Kaine prioritized the accessibility of high-quality pre-K education during this administration, particularly through the VPI program. During Governor Kaine’s administration, Virginia has invested an additional $22 million in pre-K, allowing for a 38% expansion of publicly-funded pre-K education. VPI participation has increased from just over 5,800 children served in 2003 to nearly 14,600 in 2009.
The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and the Office of Early Childhood Development have partnered to bring the Virginia Star Quality Initiative and QRIS to the Commonwealth. The voluntary Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), which evaluates early childhood programs on a one to five star scale, has increased its participating programs from 100 to 343, with 800 assessments expected by 2011. These include private, public, faith-based, and military child care settings. There are more than 50 trained Star Quality Raters measuring standards such as staff qualifications and instructional environment, and 100 Star Quality Mentors working with childcare providers to strengthen program quality and services to children and families. The ratings are published on the Smart Beginnings Web site.
“The child care providers who volunteer and invite this process of review demonstrate their commitment to instruction and accountability,” said Secretary of Education Thomas Morris.
“We find that childcare providers are eager to learn and improve,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Marilyn B. Tavenner. “The Star ratings empower parents and teachers. Clearly, both groups want what’s best for children.”