This page contains the most frequently asked questions about early childhood education.
1. Who is
eligible for public school prekindergarten?
2. Why isn't my
child eligible for prekindergarten?
My child won't be five-years-old until right after September 1, but is very
smart and mature. Can he/she go to kindergarten instead of prekindergarten so
they don't have to wait another year?
What is the class size and student to teacher ratio for prekindergarten?
5. Can I use
my SNAP or TANF card to document eligibility?
What are the requirements for starting a prekindergarten program and/or child
care facility that is not associated with a school district or open-enrollment
May school districts serve ineligible children in prekindergarten?
What is the income level for a household to qualify as educationally
Are school districts required to serve three-year-old students who are
May districts keep “waiting lists” of eligible children who are not being
1. Who is eligible for public school prekindergarten?
To be eligible for enrollment in a prekindergarten class, a child
must be at least three years of age and:
- is unable to speak and comprehend the
English language; or
- is educationally disadvantaged; or
- is homeless, as defined by 42 U.S.C.
Section 1143a, regardless of the residence of the child, of either parent
of the child, or of the child's guardian or other person having lawful
control of the child; or
- is the child of an active duty member
of the armed forces of the United States, including the state military
forces or a reserve component of the armed forces, who is ordered to
active duty by proper authority; or
- is the child of a member of the armed
forces of the United States, including the state military forces or a
reserve component of the armed forces, who was injured or killed while
serving on active duty; or
- is or ever has been in the
conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services
following an adversary hearing held as provided by Section 262.201, Family
2. Why isn't my child eligible for prekindergarten?
The Texas Legislature determines eligibility requirements for
free, public prekindergarten in Texas. When the Texas legislature established
the prekindergarten program the intent was, and still is, to provide early
learning experiences to students who are most at risk for school failure.
Therefore the eligibility is limited. The legislature believed that a high
quality prekindergarten program could mitigate the impact of the at-risk
characteristics, thereby assisting these students to become school ready when
they enter kindergarten.
Citation: TEC §29.153(b), SAAH, Section 7.2
3. My child won't be five-years-old until right after September 1,
but is very smart and mature. Can he/she go to kindergarten instead of
prekindergarten so they don't have to wait another year?
TEA and Texas public schools are governed by the Texas Education
Code (TEC). A child must be at least five years of age on September 1 of the
school year. A student younger than five years of age is entitled to the
benefits of the Foundation School Program (i.e. kindergarten) if: (1) the
student performs satisfactorily on the assessment instrument administered under
Section 39.023(a) to students in the third grade; and (2) the district has
adopted a policy for admitting students younger than five years of age.
If a student is eligible for prekindergarten by the definition set
forth in section 7.2, the student is eligible for PK funding even if the
district serves the student in a kindergarten classroom.
Citation: TEC §29.151, TEC §42.003(d)
4. What is the class size and student to teacher ratio for
There is no rule or law regarding prekindergarten class size or
student to teacher ratio; however school districts are encouraged to maintain
student/teacher ratios in prekindergarten programs that, at a minimum, do not exceed
the 22:1 ratio required for kindergarten through fourth grade. If a school
district contracts with a private entity for the operation of the district’s
prekindergarten program, the program must, at a minimum, comply with the
applicable child care licensing standards adopted by Section 42.042, Human
Resources Code by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
5. Can I use my
SNAP or TANF card to document eligibility?
Yes. All children in a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
(SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) household are
categorically eligible to receive NSLP assistance. When a household submits a
complete application that contains the name of the child, a current SNAP or
TANF group number and an adult signature, the determining official must approve
the child for free meals. No further application information is required.
Please note that Lone Star Card account numbers are not acceptable SNAP case numbers on
the application. If this occurs, contact the applicant to obtain the valid SNAP
or TANF eligibility number.
Citation: ARM (Administrator's Reference Manual)
for Texas Child Nutrition Programs, Section 4.11-4.12
are the requirements for starting a prekindergarten program and/or child care
facility that is not associated with a school district or open-enrollment
If starting a private school, please visit the Texas Private
School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC) website. TEPSAC provides a link with guidance for
starting a private school in Texas.
Programs that are not associated with a school district,
open-enrollment charter school, or a private school must be registered through
the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), Child Care
Licensing division. Please see http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Care/,
for further information on the becoming a licensed child care provider.
42.041, Human Resources Code
school districts serve ineligible children in prekindergarten?
Yes. A school district may offer, on a tuition basis or using
other funds, to half-day and full-day prekindergarten classes to children not
eligible for classes under TEC Section 29.153. Districts must ensure that
serving students who are not eligible for the program does not interfere with
serving four-year-old students who are eligible for the program.
As best practice, the TEA recommends that districts first serve
all students who meet the eligibility requirements before serving those
students paying tuition or other students that do not meet the eligibility
8. What is the income level for a household to qualify as
The income level is based on the National School Lunch Program
(NSLP) income eligibility guidelines established annually by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. Those guidelines may be found at http://www.squaremeals.org/Publications/IncomeEligibilityGuidelines.aspx#CACFP.
9. Are school districts required to serve three-year-old students
who are eligible?
No. A district may offer prekindergarten classes if the district
identifies 15 or more eligible children who are at least three years of age. A
child who is three years old is eligible for prekindergarten only if the
district operates a three-year-old prekindergarten program.
10. May districts keep
“waiting lists” of eligible children who are not being served?
No, not for eligible four-year-olds. By law, a school district
must offer prekindergarten classes if it identifies 15 or more children who are
eligible and are four years of age by September 1 of the current school year.
If a district offers a program for eligible three-year-old students, a waiting
list or lottery for three-year-olds only may be established under district
policy. In this case, the district may not be serving ineligible four-year-old
students until all eligible four-year-olds have been served. See Guidelines for
Offering Tuition-Based Prekindergarten in Category IV.
- Eligibility and Attendance
- Full/Half Day Programs
- School Readiness Integration (SRI)
- Prekindergarten Instruction
- Five-Year-Olds & Three-Year-Olds
- Waiting Lists and Waivers
Howard Morrison, Statewide Coordinator, Early Childhood Education
North Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701-1401