Eligibility for Prekindergarten
This page explains the eligibility rules and requirements for prekindergarten. It also provides the required documentation for eligible students.
Eligibility for Prekindergarten
A district is required to offer a prekindergarten program if they identify 15 or more eligible children. To be eligible, a child must be at least four years of age by September 1 of the current school year and meet at least one of the criteria listed below. A district may offer (but not required) a three-year-old program to eligible children and the same criteria would apply. Age is always calculated as of September 1 of the current school year (for the purposes of establishing eligibility).
- Be unable to speak and comprehend the English language
- Be educationally disadvantaged, which means a student eligible to participate in the national free or reduced-price lunch program
- Be homeless, as defined by 42 United States Code (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
- Be 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;
- Be 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;
- Be in, or have been in, the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) following an adversary hearing held as provided by Section 262.201, Family Code;
- Be the child of a person eligible for the Star of Texas Award as a peace officer (3106.002), firefighter (3106.003), or emergency medical first responder (3106.004).
Documentation for Prekindergarten
The following sections provides the requirements and documents needed for each group of students:
English Language Learners
Students who qualify because they are unable to speak and comprehend English must have the following documentation on file:
- Home language survey: School districts must be administer the home language survey in English and Spanish; for students of other language groups, school districts must translate the home language survey into the home language whenever possible. The home language survey must 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 speak most of the time?
- Proof of a qualifying score on an approved Oral Language Proficiency Test. The school district must document the official scores in the student's records.
- Documentation of the limited proficiency assessment committee's identification of the student as an English language learner.
Students who qualify because they are educationally disadvantaged must have income documentation on file.
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 includes:
- Business or farming documents, such as ledger books or self-issued paycheck stub
- Last year's tax return (Self-employment)
Acceptable documentation for cash income is a letter from the employer stating wages paid and frequency.
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 before verification. The document ought to contain the name of the person standing in parental relation, and amount of income, and the date received. A pay stub with no date would be insufficient. Reported gross income 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.
For additional sources and examples of income documentation, refer to the Administrator's Reference Manual (ARM) (outside source) for Texas Child Nutrition Programs.
Students who qualify because they are homeless must fit the definition of homeless as defined by 42 U.S.C. Section 11302 and 42 U.S.C. Section 11434(a). (Refer to "FAQs" for definition of "homeless")
Students who qualify because they are 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 must have the following documentation on file:
- Documentation that a district employee verified the student's US Department of Defense (DoD) photo identification for children of active duty service members. The documentation must include the printed name and signature of the person who verified the identification and the date of verification. 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 DoD identification.
- A statement of service from the installation adjutant general director of human resources for children of active members, 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 in fact 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 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 or mobilized status, which is acceptable documentation.
- A copy of the death certificate using the service-appropriate DoD form, or a DoD form that indicates death as the reason for the separation from service, for children of service members who died or were killed. If the DoD 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 that the service member was killed in action or died while serving.
- A copy of Purple Heart orders or citation for children of service members or mobilized reservists or guardsmen wounded or injured in combat.
- A copy of the line of duty determination documentation for children of service members or mobilized reservists or guardsmen who were injured while serving active duty but were not wounded or injured in combat.
If this 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) that states that the service member was wounded or injured while on active duty is acceptable. A copy of a letter from the US Department of Veterans Affairs indicating that the service member is eligible for disability compensation is also acceptable.
- Documentation that a service member is MIA for children of service members who are MIA.
Department of Family and Protective Services
DFPS will mail a verification letter of prekindergarten eligibility to the parent or caregiver of students who qualify because they are, or ever have been, in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services following an adversary hearing, as provided by Section 262.201, Family Code.
Districts must 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.
Child of Star of Texas Award Recipient
The office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division honors recipients annually in September. The resolution (certificate) awarded to an individual serves as proof of eligibility to enroll these children in free prekindergarten if they are age-eligible. A list of past honorees may be viewed on the Criminal Justice Division-Past Honorees webpage. If an individual has a prekindergarten-aged child and has been nominated, but not notified as an honoree prior to the current school year, an individual may make a request to the Office of Early Childhood Education to make an eligibility determination based on the nomination submitted for review to the Criminal Justice Division.