How to Apply for Recognition as a Universal Pre-K Provider

June 3, 2024

How to Apply for Recognition as a Universal Pre-K Provider


What do you need to do in order to become a universal pre-k provider? While the answer will differ depending on which state you live in, you can follow these best practices for seeking UPK designation. Read on to learn more. 

The concept of universal pre-k varies widely across the United States. At the time of this writing, six states and many cities nationwide offer universal pre-k programs, including California, New York, Florida, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma. If you operate a preschool in a state or city that offers universal pre-k and you are interested in applying for recognition as a UPK provider, then the following best practices will help make the process smoother for you. 

Be sure you are eligible under your state’s laws.

Each state or city offering universal pre-k will have different laws and regulations regarding eligibility for childcare providers. For example, Vermont outlines the following requirements on its Universal PreK Prequalified Education Program Application Checklist:

  • The childcare program must be in good regulatory standing with the Agency of Human Services/Child Development Division. 
  • All program staff must be compliant with Child Care Licensing criminal record check that includes fingerprinting and a background clearance check and verified by Child Care Licensing.
  • The childcare program must agree that it will not use public tuition money for religious education, religious materials, or worship.
  • The childcare program must have accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) with a certificate provided as supporting documentation. 
  • The childcare program must have at least 3 STARS with an approved STARS plan, including the date of the approved plan (Special Needs Tracking and Awareness Response System). 

These and other requirements may or may not be similar among other states and jurisdictions that offer universal pre-k designation to qualifying childcare providers, so be sure to check your eligibility under applicable local laws. 

Submit a complete application with supporting documents. 

A thorough application supported by all required documentation is of utmost importance when seeking designation as a universal pre-k provider wherever you reside. Taking again Vermont’s applicant requirements as an example, consider the following supporting information and documentation needed for a complete application: 

  • Program physical and mailing addresses
  • Program director name and contact information
  • Vermont Early Learning Standards (Indicate all of the goals on which your program’s curriculum aligns with the VELS) 
  • Personnel qualifications, including name, date of birth, license type, expiration date, and endorsement for every Vermont-licensed educator your program has
  • Capacity, including the number of AM/PM/full-day sessions you operate per week and the number of children you are licensed to care for at one time
  • Assurances that your program includes children with disabilities, or that you are willing to include children with disabilities in your program 
  • Child care license number 

Again, the required supporting information and documentation exemplified by the state of Vermont may or may not be similar in your own state or jurisdiction. Be sure to submit a complete and thorough application according to the requirements of local laws and regulations in your area.

Take advantage of resources provided by your state. 

Finally, you will likely discover various resources provided by your local governing body to assist with your application for designation as a provider of universal pre-k. For example, the New York State Office of Early Learning offers liaisons who are available to help you and your staff through the process of applying for UPK funding and running a successful program. The NYS OEL provides a basic overview of funding, the NYS UPK application process, outreach, collaboration, and programming. You can contact your local office of early learning to find out what resources are available to you throughout the application process.

We are confident that by implementing the best practices we have discussed in this article you can help ensure a smooth application process as you seek designation as a universal pre-k childcare provider. 

Honest Buck is a full-service accounting firm specialized in working with Early Childhood Education businesses. From audits to profitability coaching, our team of accountants offers the expertise you rely on to grow a thriving childcare business. Reach out to us to schedule a free consultation. 

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