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Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions on Early Childhood in Texas

 
  1. What criteria must a child meet to be eligible for a public prekindergarten program?  
  2. Why isn't my child eligible for prekindergarten? My child doesn't meet the criteria and I can't afford private prekindergarten. Why aren't all children eligible for prekindergarten?
  3. My child won't be 5-years-old until right after September 1, but is very smart and mature. Can they go to kindergarten instead of prekindergarten so they don't have to wait another year?
  4. What is the class size and student: teacher ratio for prekindergarten?  
  5. Can I use my SNAP or TANF card to document eligibility?
  6. How many and which districts offer a full-day prekindergarten program?  
  7. Can school districts serve ineligible children in prekindergarten?  
  8. What are the requirements for starting a prekindergarten program and/or child care facility that’s not associated with a school district or open-enrollment charter school?
  9. Are school districts required to serve three year old students who are eligible?  
  10. Can school districts keep "waiting lists" of eligible children who are not being served?  

Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions on Early Childhood Education: (Full Version, PDF, 318.79KB)

1. What criteria must a child meet to be eligible for a public prekindergarten program?

To be eligible for enrollment in a prekindergarten class, a child must be at least three years of age and:

  1. is unable to speak and comprehend the English language; or
  2. is educationally disadvantaged; or
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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 Code.

2. Why isn't my child eligible for prekindergarten? My child doesn't meet the criteria and I can't afford private prekindergarten. Why aren't all children 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. The eligibility is therefore 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

If you would like a change in current state law, you may discuss the issue with your local legislators. Because TEA and Texas public schools are governed by the Texas Education Code, the Legislature is the only body that can change or expand the eligibility requirements. To locate your legislators, visit the websites below.

3. My child won't be 5-years-old until right after September 1, but is very smart and mature. Can they 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.

Citation: TEC §29.151, TEC §42.003(d)

Because public school age is governed by the TEC, the legislature is the only body that can change or expand the age requirements. To locate your legislators, visit the websites below:

4. What is the class size and student: teacher ratio for prekindergarten?

There is no rule or law regarding prekindergarten class size or student: 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 the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services under Section 42.042, Human Resources Code. Please see FAQ #11 for additional information regarding class size.

Citation: TEC §25.112, TEC §29.1532(b)

5. Can I use my SNAP or TANF card to document eligibility?

Yes. All children in a SNAP or TANF household are categorically eligible to receive free meals. When a household submits a complete application that contains: the name of the child, a current SNAP or TANF case number and an adult signature, the determining official mustapprove the child for free meals. No further application information is required. 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

6. How many and which districts offer a full-day prekindergarten program?

TEA does not collect this information.

7. Can school districts serve ineligible children in prekindergarten?

Yes. A school district may offer on a tuition basis or use other funds to provide half-day and full-day prekindergarten classes to children not eligible for classes under Section 29.153. Districts must ensure that serving students who are not eligible for the program does not interfere with serving students who are eligible for the program.

Districts with a 4-year-old program, but no 3-year-old program may serve non-eligible 4-year-old students only after all eligible 4-year-old students have been offered service. If a district serves one or more 3-year-old students in prekindergarten, it is operating a 3-year-old program. The student's age is determined as of September 1 of the applicable school year. Districts with a 4-year-old program AND a 3-year-old program may serve non-eligible 3- and 4-year-old students only after all eligible 3- and 4-year-old students have been offered service.

The agency recommends that districts first serve all 3-year-olds who meet the eligibility requirements before serving those students paying tuition or other students that do not meet the eligibility requirements.

Citation: TEC §29.1531(a)(2), SAAH, Section 7.2.1

8. What are the requirements for starting a prekindergarten program and/or child care facility that’s not associated with a school district or open-enrollment charter school? 

If you are 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 an 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. 

Sec. 42.041, Human Resources Code

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 3-year-old prekindergarten program. Districts may serve non-eligible 3-year-old students only after serving all eligible 3-year-olds. It is the agency's position that districts need to first serve all 3-year-olds who meet the eligibility requirements before serving those 3-year-olds paying tuition or other 3-year-olds that do not meet the eligibility requirements.

Citation: TEC §29.153(a), SAAH, Section 7.2

10. Can school districts keep "waiting lists" of eligible children who are not being served?

Not for eligible 4-year-olds. By law, a school district must offer prekindergarten classes if it identifies 15 or more children who are eligible and are 4 years of age by September 1 of the current school year. If a district offers a program for eligible 3-year-olds and runs out of capacity, a waiting list or lottery for 3-year-olds only may be established under district policy. In this case, the district may not be serving ineligible 3- or 4-year-old students until all eligible 3- and 4-year-olds have been served. See Guidelines for Offering Tuition-Based Prekindergarten in Category IV above.

Citation: TEC §29.153(a)

Additional FAQs by Category: (Full Version, PDF, 318.79KB)

  1. Eligibility and Attendance
  2. Full/Half Day Programs
  3. School Readiness Integration (SRI) Partnerships
  4. Tuition
  5. Prekindergarten Instruction
  6. Five Year Olds & Three Year Olds
  7. Waiting Lists and Waivers
  8. Additional FAQs on Early Childhood

Contacts

Department of Federal and State Education Policy:
512-936-6060

Program Contact:
Howard Morrison, howard.morrison@tea.state.tx.us

Page last modified on 10/2/2013 01:32:06 PM.