This page contains the most frequently asked questions about early childhood education.
- Who is
eligible for public school prekindergarten?
- 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 my child go to kindergarten instead of prekindergarten so
she doesn't have to wait another year?
- What is the class size and student-to-teacher ratio for prekindergarten?
- 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
A full version of frequently asked
questions is also
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:
- unable to speak and comprehend the
English language; or
- educationally disadvantaged; or
- 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
- 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
- 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
- has ever 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?
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,
3. My child won't be five years old until right after
September 1, but is very smart and mature. Can she go to kindergarten instead
of prekindergarten so she doesn't have to wait another year?[SG1]
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 (kindergarten)
if the student performs satisfactorily on the appropriate, third grade
assessment instrument and the district has adopted a policy for admitting
students younger than five years of age.
If a student is eligible for
prekindergarten, the district is eligible for prekindergarten 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 about
prekindergarten class size or student-to-teacher ratio; however, school
districts are encouraged to maintain student-to-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.
Citation: TEC §25.112,
5. Can I use my Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
card to document eligibility?
Yes. SNAP or TANF household are
categorically eligible to receive National School Lunch Program (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. Be sure to provide a valid SNAP or TANF eligibility number.
Citation: ARM (Administrator's
Reference Manual) for Texas Child Nutrition Programs,
6. What are the requirements for
starting a prekindergarten program or a child care facility that is not
associated with a school district or open-enrollment charter school?
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 register 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
Citation: Sec. 42.041,
Human Resources Code
7. May school districts serve
ineligible children in prekindergarten?
Yes. A school district may offer
half-day or full-day prekindergarten classes to children not eligible for
classes under TEC Section 29.153, using alternative funding or by charging tution
to students. Alternative funding 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 requirements
Citation: TEC §29.1531(a)(2),
SAAH, Section 7.2.1
8. What is the income level for a household to qualify as
The income level is based on the
NSLP income eligibility guidelines established annually by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture. Those guidelines are 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
Citation: TEC §29.153(a),
SAAH, Section 7.2
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 serve
ineligible four-year-old students until all eligible four-year-olds have been
served. See Guidelines for Offering Tuition-Based Prekindergarten in
Citation: TEC §29.153(a)
Categorized frequently asked questions are also available.
- Eligibility and Attendance
- Full/Half Day Programs
- School Readiness Integration (SRI) Partnerships
- Prekindergarten Instruction
- Five-Year-Olds & Three-Year-Olds
- Waiting Lists and Waivers
prefer to keep the end of this question as is.
Howard Morrison, Statewide Coordinator, Early Childhood Education
North Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701-1401