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Memo: Insurance Provisions within Universal Prekindergarten Partnership Agreements

June 13, 2024

TO:                Superintendents     

FROM:         Janet McLaughlin, Deputy Commissioner, Child Development Division, Department for Children and Families

                       Meg Porcella, Director, Student Support Services Division, Agency of Education

SUBJECT:   Insurance Provisions within Universal Prekindergarten Partnership Agreements

DATE:           June 13, 2024


This memo provides guidance to School Districts and Supervisory Unions related to insurance provisions in Universal Prekindergarten (UPK) Partnership Agreements.


Vermont’s Universal Prekindergarten laws (16 V.S.A. § 829) and the related State Board of Education Series 2600 – Prekindergarten Education allow parents to choose the prequalified UPK program that they would like their child to attend. Rule 2603 - Access to Prekindergarten Education – states:

Each prekindergarten child whose parent or guardian enrolls the child at the child's district of residence is entitled to no less than ten hours per week for 35 weeks annually of publicly funded prekindergarten education at an available prequalified prekindergarten education program operated by a public school or private program.

The law requires school districts to pay tuition to a prequalified prekindergarten program that the family of an eligible child selects. Rule 2603 - Access to Prekindergarten Education – states:

When a parent or guardian enrolls a prekindergarten child in his/her district of residence, the district of residence shall either:

a. Enroll the child in a prequalified prekindergarten education program that it operates; or

b. At the request of the parent or guardian, pay tuition to a prequalified prekindergarten education program operated by a private program or a public school outside the district.

As required by statute and rule, the Agencies of Education and Human Services determine eligibility for and maintain a list of prequalified prekindergarten programs eligible for public education funding in Vermont. Neither the State agencies nor supervisory unions/school districts have authority to require prequalified prekindergarten education programs to meet standards not already provided in those statutes and rules.

Insurance Provisions in UPK Partnership Agreements

The Agencies understand that many school districts include insurance-related provisions in all of their contracts and agreements, including those related to prekindergarten. We also understand that the insurance landscape in Vermont has evolved and that refined guidance was provided to school districts by Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust (VSBIT) regarding recommended levels of insurance coverage for all entities, including prequalified prekindergarten programs. After consulting with the Department for Financial Regulation and the Agency of Administration’s Risk Management team, the Agencies have determined that, based on the current insurance market in Vermont, the desired levels of insurance coverage are unavailable to some prequalified prekindergarten programs and unaffordable for others. In addition, the Administration reviewed the safety protocols within Child Care Licensing, a requirement for all prequalified prekindergarten programs, for alignment with best practices in safely serving young children.

As a result of these reviews, the Agencies are providing 1) an additional explanation of the safety standards within Vermont’s child care licensing regulations and 2) a notification option for school districts entering into prekindergarten agreements with programs that do not meet the desired insurance coverage limits.

All UPK programs are required to hold an active child care license from the state of Vermont which is issued by the Child Development Division (CDD) of the Agency of Human Service’s Department for Child and Families. Child care licensing regulations are the foundational requirements relevant to the health and safety of children in early childhood and afterschool settings: Center-based Child Care and Preschool Program Regulations, Registered and Licensed Family Child Care Regulations, and Afterschool Program Regulations. The rules include but are not limited to the following:

  • Standards related to the safety of the physical facility, the qualifications of personnel, and safe supervision of young children;
  • Required background checks for all staff and affiliated parties that include multiple state, federal, and out-of-state databases and registries (it is not uncommon for a prospective hire to be flagged by CDD process but not by a school district background check);
  • Strict protocols to ensure that adults who are not cleared by CDD do not have access to children; this includes all members of the household of a family child care home in addition to those working directly with children;
  • Mandatory orientation that includes multiple topics related to safely caring for young children, including training on the role of staff as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect.

To enforce these regulations, CDD has a robust application, renewal, and monitoring protocol that includes unannounced site inspections by a team of licensors around the state. CDD partners closely with its colleagues in the Family Services Division of the Department for Children and Families to investigate any claims of child abuse or neglect. Child care licensing also requires that the programs have general liability insurance with a “reasonable amount” of coverage to protect the program and families served. It’s also important to note that prequalified prekindergarten programs are also required to demonstrate quality at the 4 or 5 STAR level within Vermont’s quality recognition and improvement system and to engage an AOE licensed teacher; these requirements provide an additional layer of oversight that could surface any safety-related concerns. 

Supervisory Unions/school districts will need to balance the prudent considerations behind insurance coverage with the limited availability of coverage described above. In some cases, a prequalified program will not be able to attain the coverage an SU/district would otherwise require. In those cases, the SU/district will pay tuition to the program. However, the Agencies recognize that documentation of these instances will be helpful to all parties.

If a prequalified prekindergarten program is unable to provide documentation of insurance coverage at the desired limits, the school districts may provide notice to the Agencies via the online form indicating that they have entered a prekindergarten partnership agreement with a prequalified program that does not have the desired levels of insurance coverage. The Agencies will keep that documentation in the prequalified program’s file and provide it in case of any insurance claims that impact the school districts.