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DoD Expands Universal Pre-K to “Most Schools”

The Department of Defense Education Activity, also known as DoDEA, announced the start of Universal pre-kindergarten at “most” DoDEA schools in the 2024-2025 school year.

The expansion is meant to bring universal Pre-K to all DoD schools stateside and overseas when the final phase-in is completed.

The DoDEA official site’s press release notes that while past efforts to expand pre-kindergarten at military bases have been implemented, none offered full-day options to all its stateside schools.

Related: Military Tuition Assistance

A Phased-In Approach to Universal Pre-K

“While select schools within DoDEA have previously offered the Sure Start Program and part-time Prekindergarten to eligible families, this marks the FIRST time DoDEA will have a PK program OPEN in ALL primary schools” stateside and at military bases outside CONUS.

The program was not designed to open full-day pre-kindergarten at all schools at once. Instead, the plan is offered in phases, with phase one bringing 80 stateside facilities into the program in one school year.

The second and final phase of the program will bring in the remaining 10 stateside DoDEA schools, but because of infrastructure issues, it may take several years to do so.

Related: Military Tuition Assistance

What is DoDEA?

The Department of Defense Educational Activity is a federally run school system that began after World War Two.

  • According to the official site, “the United States military established schools for the children of its service men and women stationed in Europe and the Pacific. Schools for children of military members stationed at various bases in the United States were already well-established.”
  • Over time, two separate agencies  (Department of Defense Dependents Schools and the Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools) merged to become DoDEA.
  • Today, the agency “is responsible for planning, directing, coordinating, and managing prekindergarten through 12th grade educational programs on behalf of the Department of Defense (DoD). DoDEA is globally positioned, operating 160 accredited schools in 8 districts in 11 foreign countries, 7 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico.”

Who is Eligible for Universal Pre-K at DoDEA Schools?

Pre-K is offered to qualifying children in military families and other authorized DoDEA families. Pre-K is for children who turn 4 years old before September 1. DoDEA policy for pre-k enrollment “is projected to be similar to the current kindergarten enrollment,” which includes an age requirement (5 years old for kindergarten, 4 years old for pre-k.)

There is no preschool requirement for kindergarten. There is also no age waiver allowed for the 5-year-old kindergarten age requirement. According to DoDEA, “A student who does not meet the above age requirement may only be granted an exception” if one of the following criteria applies:

  • The student is transferring from an accredited program overseas “where they were enrolled and attended the equivalent grade level of kindergarten” or;
  • There is a transfer from “being enrolled in and attending kindergarten in the local education agency from the sponsor’s assigned sending state or the Non-DoD Schools Program at the time of the PCS move” or;
  • “The student is transferring from a private or homeschool setting and would be eligible to enroll in kindergarten in the public school system.”
  • DoDEA policy for students who require Individual Education Plans or IEP allows them to “enroll in the PK program and be supported in an inclusive environment.”

What to Know About Universal Pre-Kindergarten

According to the official site, “DoDEA’s PK Program will embrace and implement the co-teaching methodology in which teachers are paired together to share responsibilities of planning, instructing, and assessing students to provide a continuum of services.”

The agency believes pre-k options can be beneficial over the long haul in the form of “long-term savings to the government” through “reducing the need for special education services and increasing the likelihood of children graduating from high school…”

However, some think the real savings are the money military families potentially save by not having to pay for private pre-kindergarten services, childcare, etc.

Related: Military Tuition Assistance

Image courtesy Department of Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.