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Prekindergarten Eligibility and Attendance

 
  1. Do schools have to have a prekindergarten program?
  2. How is the prekindergarten program funded?  
  3. Does a school have to notify families about the prekindergarten program?
  4. Does the agency have any outreach materials to help schools notify communities?
  5. What are some ways school districts can notify the availability of the prekindergarten program?  
  6. If my child is eligible for special education programs due to having a disability, are they automatically eligible for prekindergarten as well?  
  7. May eligible students be excluded from eligibility if they are not potty trained or have frequent bathroom accidents?  
  8. What is the room size requirement (minimum square feet) for a prekindergarten classroom?  
  9. How do I prove my child’s age and identification?  
  10. How do we know if our child is the right age?  
  11. Does my child have to go to prekindergarten if he or she is eligible?  
  12. If a student is eligible based on limited English proficiency (LEP) and is receiving required services through the bilingual/ESL program and then moves out of the district, does the student have to re-qualify for the prekindergarten program in the new district?  
  13. If a student is eligible based on being limited English proficient (LEP) and is not receiving required services through the bilingual/ ESL program because of a parental denial, and then moves out of the district, does the student have to re-qualify for the prekindergarten program in the new district?
  14. For students who do not speak and comprehend the English language, what documentation is needed to show eligibility?
  15. What is the definition of “educationally disadvantaged?”
  16. What is the income level for a household to qualify as educationally disadvantaged?  
  17. What if the qualifying status of a student’s family changes during the school year?  
  18. Do we have to provide current income level documentation to the school for my child who qualifies as “educationally disadvantaged?  
  19. What if our family has already been approved for NSLP participation? Do we need to provide documentation again for younger siblings when they enroll?  
  20. What do I need to show my child is eligible for free and reduced lunch?  
  21. If a child is eligible for prekindergarten based on free or reduced-price lunch, enrolls and then withdraws from school and then returns to school within the same school year, is that child still eligible for prekindergarten?  
  22. If a student is eligible based on being educationally disadvantaged (eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program) and then moves to another district, does the student have to re-qualify for the prekindergarten program in the new district?  
  23. Does my student have to participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in order to qualify for prekindergarten? 
  24. What is the definition of “homeless?  
  25. How do I show my child is eligible based on being homeless?  
  26. What is the definition of “member of the armed forces?”  
  27. What do I need to show to demonstrate my child is eligible based on the military criteria?  
  28. What are the benefits to the school district for partnering with a military installation child care center for school readiness integration?  
  29. What if the parent leaves military services during the school year?  
  30. Does a foster care qualifying student have to be currently in foster care?  
  31. What do I need to show to demonstrate my child is eligible based on the foster care criteria?

 1. Do schools have to have a prekindergarten program?

Yes, if the district identifies 15 or more eligible children who are at least four years of age by September 1 of the current school year. A school district may offer prekindergarten classes if the district identifies 15 or more eligible children who are at least three years of age.

Citation: TEC §29.153(a-1)

2. How is the prekindergarten program funded?

The school finance system provides state aid on the basis of aggregate (district-level) average daily attendance (ADA). Funding is not provided on a grade-level basis. Because attendance data and grade level are reported at the student level, it is possible to calculate the ADA generated by students associated with a particular grade level and infer the amount of funding represented by the ADA of the students in that grade level.

Citation: SAAH, Section 7.2

3. Does a school have to notify families about the prekindergarten program?

Yes. Each district offering a prekindergarten program must develop a system to notify families with eligible children of the availability of the class. Notice must be made in English and Spanish.

Citation: TEC §29.153(e)

4. Does the agency have any outreach materials to help schools notify communities?

Yes. The website www.prekindergartenprepares.com contains products including free downloadable, customizable materials for district outreach efforts in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, as well as English and Spanish radio and TV spots for local use and distribution.

The Texas Early Learning Council (TELC) has developed www.littletexans.org.

Citation: TEC §29.1534(e)

5. What are some ways school districts can notify the availability of the prekindergarten program?

The following sources of documentation can be used for prekindergarten notification:

  • www.prekindergartenprepares.com
  • www.littletexans.org
  • letter of notification sent home with students
  • identification systems in place at times of registration of older siblings
  • newspaper articles
  • notices in public places
  • radio announcements
  • display on school marquee
  • community newsletters

Note: If a school district contracts with a private entity for the operation of the district’s prekindergarten program, it is the responsibility of the school district to make the notification.

Citation: §29.153(e)

6. If my child is eligible for special education programs due to having a disability, are they automatically eligible for prekindergarten as well?

No. A child with a disability is only eligible for prekindergarten if he or she meets the criteria for prekindergarten set forth by the Texas Education Code TEC §29.153(b).

The only time a prekindergarten student is eligible for a full day of ADA is if the student attends the prekindergarten program for half of the day and the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities (PPCD) for the other half of the day. The student must meet the qualifications of both programs to be coded eligible full-day (ADA eligibility code 1).

However, an ineligible child with a disability may participate in the prekindergarten program if the Admission Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee deems it appropriate in the Individual Education Program (IEP) and only if there is space available. An ineligible child cannot take the slot of a child who is eligible for prekindergarten.

Students who attend the PK program for half of the day and the PPCD for the other half of the day and do not qualify for the PK program are coded as eligible students for ADA only for the time spent in the PPCD.

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

7. May eligible students be excluded from eligibility if they are not potty trained or have frequent bathroom accidents?

No, they may not be excluded from eligibility. Eligible students are not required to be potty trained. TEA does not regulate procedures for assisting a child with bathroom capabilities. Local district policy governs hygiene assistance and it is recommended that the school and the parent or person standing in parental relation to the child establish written guidelines for managing these situations.

Citation: TEC §29.153(a-1)

8. What is the room size requirement (minimum square feet) for a prekindergarten classroom?

Classrooms for prekindergarten, kindergarten and first grade shall have a minimum of 36 square feet per pupil or 800 square feet per room.

Citation: TAC §61.1033(d)(2)(A)(i), TAC §61.1036(d)(5)(B)(i)

9. How do I prove my child’s age and identification?

The documents considered acceptable for proof of identification and age are:  

  • Birth Certificate;
  • Passport;
  • School ID card, records, or report card;
  • Military ID;
  • Hospital birth record;
  • Adoption records;
  • Church baptismal record; or
  • Any other legal document that establishes identity

Citation: SAAH, Section 7.3

10. How do we know if our child is the right age?

Age is always calculated as of September 1 of the current school year (for the purposes of establishing eligibility). If school starts before the student’s birth date, the attendance is eligible for the entire school year as long as the student will be the required age on or before September 1 of the current school year.

Citation: SAAH, Section 13, Glossary

11. Does my child have to go to prekindergarten if he or she is eligible?

No. Prekindergarten is not mandatory. However, on enrollment in prekindergarten, a child must attend school. All students are subject to compulsory school attendance rules while they are enrolled in school. If a child has not reached 6 years of age as of September 1 of the current school year, the child may be withdrawn from school without violating compulsory attendance rules.

Citation: TEC §25.085(b) and (c), SAAH, Section 3.5

12. If a student is eligible based on limited English proficiency (LEP) and is receiving required services through the bilingual/ESL program and then moves out of the district, does the student have to re-qualify for the prekindergarten program in the new district?

No. The student remains qualified to attend prekindergarten in the new district provided documentation of the home language survey and testing are made available to the new district [See TAC 89.1225 (i)]. This requirement also applies to prekindergarten LEP 3-year-olds who are promoted to the prekindergarten LEP 4-year-old program.

Citation: SAAH, Section 7.2.2, TAC §89.1225(i)

13. If a student is eligible based on being limited English proficient (LEP) and is not receiving required services through the bilingual/ ESL program because of a parental denial, and then moves out of the district, does the student have to re-qualify for the prekindergarten program in the new district?

No. The student remains eligible for prekindergarten if the student enrolls in the new district within 30 days provided documentation of the home language survey and testing are made available to the new district. However, the student must re-qualify for prekindergarten if the student enrolls in the district after 30 days. Also, if the LEP student is in a 3-year-old prekindergarten program and has a parental denial, the student must re-qualify to be eligible for the 4-year-old prekindergarten program. This requirement applies whether the student remains in the same district or transfers to another district.

Citation: SAAH, Section 7.2.2

14. For students who do not speak and comprehend the English language, what documentation is needed to show eligibility?

If the student is eligible for prekindergarten because the student does not speak and comprehend the English language, the following documentation must be on file:

  • Home language survey. The home language survey shall be administered in English and Spanish; for students of other language groups, the home language survey shall be translated into the home language whenever possible. The home language survey shall contain the following questions [19 TAC §89.1215 (b)]: 
    • “What language is spoken in your home most of the time?”
    • “What language does your child (do you) speak most of the time?”
  • Proof of a qualifying score on an approved Oral Language Proficiency Test. The official scores must be documented in the student’s records.
  • Be recommended for placement in the program by a language proficiency assessment committee (LPAC)

Citation: SAAH, Section 7.2.2.1

15. What is the definition of “educationally disadvantaged?”

The term, “educationally disadvantaged,” means eligible to participate in the national free or reduced-price lunch program established under 42 U.S.C. Section 1751 et seq.

Citation: TEC §5.001(4)

16. What is the income level for a household to qualify as educationally disadvantaged?

The income level is based on the National School Lunch Program income eligibility guidelines established annually by the US Department of Agriculture. Those may be found at Income Eligibility Guidelines.

Citation: TEC §5.001(4)

17. What if the qualifying status of a student’s family changes during the school year?

The student remains eligible. For example, a student who qualifies for prekindergarten because the student is eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program (educationally disadvantaged) remains eligible for the entire school year even if the family’s annual income increases above the qualifying level during the school year.

Citation: SAAH, Section 7.2.3

18. Do we have to provide current income level documentation to the school for my child who qualifies as “educationally disadvantaged?

Yes. In order for a student to qualify for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the student’s family is required to provide the school district with current income level documentation. Many districts pre-register prekindergarten students in an attempt to plan for the following school year. Since income level documentation must be current to qualify for the NSLP, districts must verify income level documentation no more than two (2) months prior to the student’s first day of membership. Upon re-verification of income, if the family’s income level has changed and they are not considered educationally disadvantaged (eligible to participate in the NSLP), the student is not eligible for prekindergarten funding.

Citation: SAAH, Section 7.2.3

19. What if our family has already been approved for NSLP participation? Do we need to provide documentation again for younger siblings when they enroll?

No. Once the household is determined to be eligible for the NSLP, all children in the household are eligible, therefore the eligibility of incoming prekindergarten students is predetermined. If a sibling was not listed on last year’s NSLP application but comes from a family with children who were eligible for free meals last year, the LEA should add the sibling to last year’s application. The LEA should then follow the established process for verifying household eligibility for the new year.

Citation: ARM (Administrator’s Reference Manual) for Texas Child Nutrition Programs, Section 4.1

20. What do I need to show my child is eligible for free and reduced lunch?

When providing written evidence of proof of income, parents or those standing in parental relation to the student must submit documents that show income received by the household during the month prior to verification. The document should contain the name of the person standing in parental relation, and amount and the date the income was received. A pay stub with no date would be insufficient. Gross income to be reported is any money received on a recurring basis including gross earned income. Specifically, gross income means all money earned before any deductions, such as income taxes, employee’s social security taxes, insurance premiums, bonds, and charitable contributions. Acceptable documentation for earnings (wages and salary) include:

  • Current paycheck stub
  • Current pay envelope
  • Letter from employer stating gross wages paid and how often they are paid
  • Unemployment, Worker’s Compensation or Disability payment stub

Acceptable documentation for self-employment income include:

  • Business or farming documents, such as ledger books and/or self-issued paycheck stub
  • Last year’s tax return

 

Acceptable documentation for cash income is a letter from the employer stating wages paid and frequency.

Please refer to the ARM (Administrator’s Reference Manual) for Texas Child Nutrition Programs for additional sources and examples of income documentation.

Citation: ARM (Administrator’s Reference Manual) for Texas Child Nutrition Programs, Section 4.21 

21. If a child is eligible for prekindergarten based on free or reduced-price lunch, enrolls and then withdraws from school and then returns to school within the same school year, is that child still eligible for prekindergarten?

Yes. Because NSLP applications are valid for the duration of the school year, the student remains eligible for the duration of the school year.

Citation: ARM (Administrator’s Reference Manual) for Texas Child Nutrition Programs, Section 4.26

22. If a student is eligible based on being educationally disadvantaged (eligible to participate in the National School Lunch Program) and then moves to another district, does the student have to re-qualify for the prekindergarten program in the new district?

No. If a student qualifies for prekindergarten on the basis of being educationally disadvantaged (eligible to participate in the NSLP) and then moves out of the district, the student would not have to re-qualify for the prekindergarten program in the new district. The student is eligible based on the original application. Even if the parents are above poverty line at the time that they moved to the second school district, the student will qualify for a free/reduced lunch based on the original application. The student would still be reported in PEIMS as qualified for free/reduced lunch. 

When a student transfers to another LEA, the new LEA may accept the eligibility determination from a copy of the transferred student’s meal application from the former LEA, however the accepting LEA will not incur liability for the accuracy of the initial determination made by the previous LEA. The accepting LEA should review the application for arithmetic errors and ensure the correct eligibility was determined. If an error was made, the accepting LEA must notify the household to submit a new application. The accepting LEA must make changes that occur as a result of verification activities or coordinated review findings conducted.

Citation: SAAH, Section 7.2.3, ARM (Administrator’s Reference Manual) for Texas Child Nutrition Programs, Section 4.47  

23. Does my student have to participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in order to qualify for prekindergarten? 

No. To qualify for prekindergarten on the basis of being educationally disadvantaged means that a student is eligible to participate in the NSLP.

Citation: TEC §29.153

24. What is the definition of “homeless?

The term, “homeless,” is defined as an individual who lacks a regular, fixed, or adequate nighttime residence; and an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is:

  • a supervised public or private shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);
  • an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or
  • a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.

The definition in 42 U.S.C. Section 11302 is similar, but not identical, to the new definition of “homeless children and youths” enacted in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation enacted by Congress. As the new definition in the NCLB legislation applies specifically under federal law to the enrollment of homeless children and youth, the Texas Education Agency advises that school districts apply the NCLB definition, in addition to the definition in 42 U.S.C. Section 11302, when determining if a student is eligible for enrollment.

Citation: 42 U.S.C. Section 11302(a), SAAH, Section 7.2.4, As defined by NCLB, Title X, Part C, Section 725(2), SAAH, Section 13, Glossary

25. How do I show my child is eligible based on being homeless?

If the student is eligible for prekindergarten because the student is homeless, the student must fit the definition of homeless as defined by 42 U.S.C. Section 11302 and 42 U.S.C. Section 11434(a).

The Texas Homeless Education Office (THEO) offers a variety of services to the state.
THEO: http://www.utdanacenter.org/theo/  
Contact: 1-800-446-3142

Citation: SAAH, Section 7.2.4

26. What is the definition of “member of the armed forces?”

The term “member of the armed forces” includes:

  • active duty uniformed members (parents or official guardians) of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard who are assigned to duty stations in Texas or who are Texans who have eligible children residing in Texas;
  • activated/mobilized uniformed members of the Texas National Guard (Army or Air Guard), or activated/mobilized members of the reserve components of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard who are Texas residents regardless of the location of the reserve unit; and
  • uniformed service members who are Missing in Action (MIA).

Also, for purposes of eligibility for enrollment in a prekindergarten program, a child is considered to be the child of a member of the armed forces if: (a) the child is the biological or adopted child of the member of the armed forces, regardless of whether the child lives with that parent; or (b) the child is a step-child of the member of the armed forces and lives in the household of the member of the armed forces.

Citation: SAAH, Section 7.2.5

27. What do I need to show to demonstrate my child is eligible based on the military criteria?

If a student is eligible for prekindergarten because the student is the child of an active duty, injured or killed member of the armed forces of the United States, including the state military forces or a reserved component of the armed forces, the following documentation must be on file:

  • Documentation that a district employee verified the student's Department of Defense (DoD) photo identification for children of active duty service members. Important: Your district should not make a copy of the identification.
  • If the student has not been issued such an ID, then documentation must be on file that a district employee verified the military member's DoD photo identification (or other DoD-issued documentation indicating that the person is an active-duty member of the military) and verified documentation showing that the student is a child of the military member. The documentation to be kept on file must include the printed name and signature of the person who verified the DoD and other documentation and the date that it was verified, as well as a photocopy of the documentation showing that the student is a child of the military member. Important: Your district should not make a copy of the DoD identification; or
  • A copy of the “Statement of Service” from the Installation Adjutant General (AG) Director of Human Resources for children of active members or mobilized reservists or members of the Texas National Guard. This office would use the military personnel systems and documentation to verify that the service member is on active duty in Texas or a Texas mobilized reservist. For Texas National Guard members (Army or Air Guard), the Texas National Guard’s office of the Adjutant General (TAG) may provide documentation or an official letter from a commander (at or above the Lieutenant Colonel or, for the Navy at the Commander level) confirming active/mobilized status may be accepted; A letter from the Veteran Affairs (VA) office stating there was a service connected disability; or
  • A copy of the Death Certificate using the service appropriate Department of Defense form, or a Department of Defense form that indicates death as the reason for the separation from the service for children of service members who died or were killed. If the Department of Defense form is not available, the family would ask the Casualty Assistance Office of the closest Casualty Area Command (in Texas) to provide a memorandum signed by the Casualty Office stating the service member was killed in action or died while serving; or
  • A copy of the Purple Heart orders or citation for children of service members or mobilized reservists/guardsmen who were wounded or injured in combat; or
  • A copy of the Line of Duty Determination documentation for children of service members or mobilized reservists/guardsmen who were injured while serving on active duty but were NOT wounded or injured in combat. If such documentation is not available, a copy of an official letter from a commander (at or above the Lieutenant Colonel or, for the Navy at the Commander level) stating the service member was wounded or injured while on active duty is acceptable; A letter from the Veteran Affairs (VA) office stating there was a service connected disability; or
  • A copy of appropriate documentation for children of service members who are “Missing in Action” (MIA). Any one of the following three acceptable pieces of documentation will suffice for all services: (1) a copy of the transmittal letter from the Service Secretary stating the service member is in a missing status; (2) a copy of the DD (Department of Defense) Form 2811, “Report of Proceedings by Initial/Subsequent Board of Inquiry or Further Review Board”; or (3) a copy of the DD Form 2812, “Commander’s Preliminary Assessment and Recommendations Regarding Missing Person.”

Citation: SAAH, Section 7.2.5.1

28. What are the benefits to the school district for partnering with a military installation child care center for school readiness integration?

The centers located on military installations make excellent partners for the SRI model in a number of ways. They offer:

  • food program operated by the US Dept of Agriculture, similar to the federal lunch program operated in the schools
  • social work services
  • state of the art facilities
  • licensed child care facilities that meet NAEYC standards
  • low student-teacher ratio
  • special needs resource teams for special education students
  • extended hours of operation (typically 5:30 am to 6:00 pm)
  • consistent attendance of children
  • predictable mobility rates for children
  • well-trained staff by military early childhood specialists

29. What if the parent leaves military services during the school year? 

The student remains eligible for enrollment if the child’s parent leaves the armed forces, or is no longer on active duty, after the student begins a prekindergarten class.

Citation: TEC §29.153(f), SAAH, Section 7.2.5

30. Does a foster care qualifying student have to be currently in foster care?

No. Students who are in or who have ever been in the conservatorship of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) (i.e., in foster care) following an adversary hearing are eligible for free prekindergarten. These students include not only students who are in or who have ever been in DFPS conservatorship but also students who have been adopted or returned to their parents after having been in DFPS conservatorship. If a student qualifies for prekindergarten on the basis of having ever been in foster care, the student remains eligible for enrollment after the student begins a prekindergarten class even if that student is no longer in foster care.

Citation: SAAH, Section 7.2.6

31. What do I need to show to demonstrate my child is eligible based on the foster care criteria? 

If a student is eligible for prekindergarten because the student 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, the parent or caregiver of the child will be mailed a verification letter of prekindergarten eligibility. Districts are asked to accept the DFPS letter as proof of eligibility to enroll these children in free prekindergarten. For assistance in obtaining a letter, please contact the DFPS Education Specialist in your area for assistance or for a description of other forms of proof of eligibility.  

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 4/8/2014 04:56:37 PM.