Palm Beach Post: VPK Creates Brighter Futures for Our Children | Letter to the Editor or Op-Ed

Howard Burnston
April 19, 2021



VPK Creates Brighter Futures for Our Children

Palm Beach Post | Letter to the Editor | Opinion Editorial


What is the best thing a parent can do to help their child succeed in kindergarten? Put them on the path for success.

Kindergarten teachers are effective at teaching skills, such as reading and math. But what happens when a student doesn’t know how to sit still and listen to directions? Or how to socialize and communicate with peers and adults? This is where Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten educational program (VPK) comes in. Child care centers and early learning providers who offer VPK are properly trained in preparing children for kindergarten and instilling these lifelong skills in young learners.

At the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County, it is our mission that every child in Palm Beach County is ready for school and life.  VPK is free and available to all four-year-old’s that reside in Florida, regardless of family income. It is easy to make the decision to enroll. However, during this pandemic the State of Florida is seeing a 22% decrease in VPK enrollment, with a similar 19% decrease in Palm Beach County.  Because of this, the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County is concerned about the incoming classes of kindergarten and VPK students.

We all want our children to be good readers, and VPK programs expose children to text-rich environments that plant the seeds for reading success.  Research shows that high-quality early childhood education, such as VPK, improves attentiveness and has a positive long-term effect on children’s cognitive and social-emotional development. Additionally, early language, phonological awareness, and pre-writing and pre-literacy skills that lay the foundation for reading ability and school readiness are acquired and built during the first years of life.

In addition to early literacy skills, VPK also provides an early childhood educational experience that supports the development of pre-math skills and scientific thinking. Children will then be able to enter kindergarten with these important educational skills intact, setting them up for success for future learning.


But why is this so important?

As it turns out, children who participate in Florida’s free VPK educational program are more ready for kindergarten than their peers who do not. Children will enter school with more confidence, having already learned what to expect from teachers, peers, and the classroom setting itself.

Simply put, quality early learning and VPK programs help to create and build a brighter future for our children.


If you have a child who was born between September 2, 2016 and September 1, 2017, they are eligible for the 2021-2022 School Year VPK program. Additionally, if you have a child who was born between September 2, 2015 and September 1, 2016, they are eligible for this year’s 2021 VPK summer program - and it’s not too late to apply or enroll. The 2021 VPK summer program starts in May or June of 2021, depending on which provider you choose.


Apply today from a computer, mobile phone, or other digital device. Visit or call the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County at 561-514-3300.  We have a team of compassionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated specialists ready and able to help you enroll your child, and to answer any questions you may have.


As parents, we want what’s best for our children. We may not always have all the answers, but fortunately, we have the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County available to help point us in the right direction.

Please, take advantage of Florida’s, and Palm Beach County’s, VPK programs, to set your child on the path for future success.



Submitted by:

Howard Burnston, Senior Vice President – Senior Corporate Counsel at First Horizon Bank

Note: Howard Burnston is the Early Learning Coalition of Palm Beach County Board Chairman and father to three VPK graduates.




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Parents: (561) 514-3300
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Special Notice:

If you require Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations to participate in any ELCPBC event or activity, please notify Christie Young, Single Point of Contact, by phone at 561-214-7424 or by email at within at least seven (7) days of the event. Accommodation will be provided at no extra charge.