Prekindergarten Registration and Enrollment
Families/Caregivers: Find A School can assist families and caregivers to see schools and programs in their area, based on address or zip code. The State of Texas provides free prekindergarten for eligible students. Prekindergarten enrollment is ongoing. For more information, use the Family Information button below.
Local Education Agencies (LEAs): For staff that work directly with prekindergarten programs including registration and enrollment, explore the Enrollment Toolkit section below as well as the button for Local Education Agencies (LEAs) for additional resources for prekindergarten 3 and prekindergarten 4 programs.
The Early Childhood Education Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page contains additional information on prekindergarten eligibility, prekindergarten programming, high-quality prekindergarten, and K-2nd Grade programming.
In Texas, ~57,000 eligible 4-year-olds and ~225,000 eligible 3-year-olds are not enrolled in public prekindergarten. Increasing student enrollment in High-Quality prekindergarten programs across the state is a high priority. This toolkit offers ideas to help guide school districts and charter schools with each step in the process of recruiting, enrolling, and serving prekindergarten-eligible children and their families. The toolkit is composed of five categories: Outreach, Family Education, Registration, Expanding Access, and Community Empowerment. Each category will have strategies with links to specific tools and resources housed on the Prekindergarten Enrollment Tools and Resources page on the Texas Gateway site. On Texas Gateway, local education agencies can view downloadable content from these five categories: Outreach, Family Education, Registration, Expanding Access, and Community Empowerment to expand enrollment in High-Quality prekindergarten programs.
Use effective strategies and actions to make families aware of the availability of early childhood education programs in their communities and the eligibility of their children. The outreach efforts should also focus on informing families about the crucial importance of education at an early age. Strategies and links to associated tools and resources can be found below.
Use Targeted Messaging
Create flyers, posters, or using social media to reach families and community members.
Partner with Primary Care Providers
Partner with local primary care providers to have them support the prekindergarten awareness effort. Discussing the importance of prekindergarten can be a part of the well-check process.
Use an Effective Media Campaign
Implement a media campaign that involves TV and radio spots as well as social media. Insert promotional/information ads in local newspapers, district and campus newsletters, utility bills, and bumper stickers.
Position Parents as Resources
Promote parent-to-parent sharing of experiences about prekindergarten education through PTO/PTA meetings, informal social events, testimonial videos, and/or home visits. Recruit a group of current and/or past prekindergarten parents who could help with outreach efforts. Provide badges that they can wear during prekindergarten events to help promote the program.
On Texas Gateway, find tools and downloadable flyers for partnering with primary care providers, effective media campaigns, positioning parents as resources, and targeted messaging. (See Outreach tools)
Provide clear and simple information to families to help them increase their knowledge and skills regarding their children's development and their role in the process. Strategies and links to associated tools and resources can be found below.
Highlight Developmental/Parenting Tips
Provide tips for families about child development and learning via newsletters, posters, and/or social media. Small tips can help families become aware of where their child falls on the developmental continuum.
Host Family Workshops
Provide bilingual workshops on topics such as: Health and Wellness, How Play Connects to Learning, Developmentally-Appropriate Activities for Young Children, Family Engagement, etc. Empower parents to lead workshops with other parents and/or to provide coaching to other parents.
Provide School Tours
Provide school tours (during the school day) throughout the year to prospective parents. This will allow them to get a firsthand look at the school and prekindergarten classrooms.
Host a Pre-k Event Day
Host a fair-type event at one of your sites to allow families to experience not only the elements of learning in prekindergarten, but also the features of a "school."
Use Online Platforms and/or Social Media
Develop a blog where parents can publish their testimonials about their positive experiences in prekindergarten education. Use social media outlets to expose parents to developmental learning tips and/or any of the strategies listed above.
Family Education Tools
On Texas Gateway, find tools and downloadable flyers for highlighting developmental/parenting tips, family workshop tools, and school tour tools. (See Family Education tools)
Simplify the steps involved in the registration process to make it easier for parents to enroll their children in high-quality prekindergarten programs. Strategies and links to associated tools and resources can be found below.
Provide Family-Friendly Registration Information
Ensure that your registration process communicated clearly to families through websites, flyers, on at the school itself.
Offer Registration Support Packets
Provide registration packets for your campuses/sites/schools to use during their registration days. Include a flow chart of the process and tips such as: greet/welcome families with a smile, provide books/activities that young children can do while parents are filling out documents, etc.
Host an Official Pre-k Orientation Day
Host a prekindergarten orientation day that families can attend on their prospective campus. On this day, families can learn about the school, the prekindergarten program offered, meet teachers, and/or take a tour of the school. Include a registration table if possible.
Use Effective Outreach and Marketing
Promote registration throughout your district: website, administrative offices, campus banners/marquees, flyers, posters, and/or social media. Don't limit your marketing to only campuses that have prekindergarten programs. Work with community and city agencies to advertise prekindergarten registration throughout the community. Advertise registration through local news and radio stations.
Position Parents as Resources
Expand the reach of the enrollment office by creating a "Prekindergarten Parent Ambassador" group. This group of parents can help new parents during registration events and/or act as mentors of the new enrollees.
On Texas Gateway, find tools and downloadable flyers for family-friendly registration, registration support packets, Pre-K orientation day, outreach, and marketing tools. (See Registration Tools)
Focus on identifying and addressing the specific challenges that may prevent families from enrolling their children in prekindergarten. Strategies and links to associated tools and resources can be found below.
Identify Barriers and Challenges
Determine the specific barriers and challenges in your own district/charter through surveys and/or focus groups. Use this information to focus your efforts on eliminating barriers specific to your community.
Find creative solutions to get children to school such as vans, school buses, or a "walking school bus" where a group of trained parents take turns walking children to and from school in a group.
Offer Enrichment Activities
Review your prekindergarten school day schedule. Is it in line with other elementary grade levels? If not, consider offering enrichment activities before or after school to make up for the time so that families can pick up all their children at once. Investigate community volunteer groups that may be willing to offer enrichment activities (i.e. art, dance, makerspace, STEM learning, gardening, and/or storytelling).
Provide Before and After School Care
Offer child care on site to accommodate family work schedules that do not align with school day. Investigate partnerships with community agencies that may be able to provide child care on site.
Partner with Child Development Centers
Partner with child development centers in your community to provide more before and after school care options for families. Contact the TEA Early Childhood Education Division for more information on how to begin a partnership at (512) 463-8967.
Engage in relationship-building activities throughout the community prior to enrollment. Participate in community events, particularly those catered to families of young children, to meet prospective families and showcase your prekindergarten program.
Expanding Access Tools
On Texas Gateway, find tools and downloadable flyers to help identify barriers and challenges, transportation, before and after school tools and for building relationships. (See Expanding Access Tools)
Use families and other community members as ambassadors for the prekindergarten program. They represent a very broad source of experiences and knowledge that can support all the aspects of increasing prekindergarten enrollment. Strategies and links to associated tools and resources can be found below.
Use Parent Ambassadors
Recruit current or former parents/families of prekindergarten children who would be willing to help with outreach in the community. Among their many possible outreach support roles, parent ambassadors can provide neighborhood walks, linguistic support, registration help, shared experiences, and/or facilitate workshops for other parents.
Build Community Partnerships
Reach out to your community and create a Prekindergarten Community Partnership Group. This group can serve as another voice for your district/charter's prekindergarten program. It can help with outreach, registration, access, family education, and even providing space and support for prekindergarten events.
Example Enrollment Campaign
In the DFW region, Commit2Dallas has brought 13 districts together to build a campaign around prekindergarten enrollment and registration. On Texas Gateway, Commit2Dallas has provided the resources and tools for local education agencies to view this example enrollment campaign.
Community Empowerment Tools
On Texas Gateway, find tools and downloadable flyers for parent ambassadors and building community partnerships. (See Community Empowerment Tools)
To be eligible for enrollment in a free prekindergarten class, a child must be at least three years of age on or before September 1 of the current school year (if a 3-year-old program is available) or four years of age on or before September 1 of the current school year and meet at least one of the following eligibility requirements:
- unable to speak and comprehend the English language
- is educationally disadvantaged (eligible to participate in the national school lunch program... guidelines about NSLP eligibility can be found in sections 4 and 6 of the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Administrators Reference Manual)
- is homeless, as defined by 42 USC, §11434a, 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
- 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
- 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
- is or has ever been in the conservatorship of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (foster care) following an adversary hearing held as provided by Family Code §262.201 or has been in foster care in another state or territory, but currently lives in Texas
- is the child of a person eligible for the Star of Texas Award as:
Eligibility applies to three-year-olds when a three-year-old program is available.
Statute: TEC §29.153 (b)
Resources and Frequently Asked Questions
This section contains a few frequently asked questions. Additional FAQs can be found on the Early Childhood Education Frequently Asked Questions page. For more family resources, check our the Family Resources page with information on the important of prekindergarten, parent guides, and information on early childhood programs across Texas.
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.
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. TEC §25.085(c), SAAH, Section 3.5
Are districts required to serve three-year-olds 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. 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. TEC §29.153(a)
The ECE Resources page contains several webinars, downloads, and additional information for early childhood programs.
The Prekindergarten Registration and Enrollment Webinar includes both of those topics as well as eligibility information and prekindergarten tuition. Participants will see tangible examples of documentation, common registration scenarios, and discover resources for prekindergarten registration. The slides are also available for download.
The Prekindergarten for three-year-olds resource includes webinars, downloads, and a comparison document for implementing a prekindergarten three program.
A district must verify a student’s eligibility for pre-k in order to receive funding for the pre-k program. Districts must have the verification document as well as any required documentation on file for their records.
- Each district offering a prekindergarten program must develop a system to notify families with eligible children of the availability of the program TEC §29.153(e). Notice must be made in English and Spanish. The following sources can be used for prekindergarten notification:
- Letter of notification sent home with students
- Identification systems in place at times of registration of older siblings
- Newspaper articles o Notices in public places o Radio announcements
- Display on school marquee
- Community newsletters
- Social media announcements
- Students may not be denied or excluded from participating in a prekindergarten program for any reason if they are deemed eligible TEC §29.153 (b).
- “Child” includes stepchild. The stepchild is eligible for pre-k enrollment whether or not the child resides in the same household as the stepparent. Student Attendance and Accounting Handbook, Section 7.2.1
- Once a student is determined to be eligible for pre-k, the student remains eligible for the remainder of the current school year in the district in which he or she resides or is otherwise entitled to attend for Foundation School Program benefits.
- Use the Early Childhood Education Frequently Asked Questions page for more information on Prekindergarten Eligibility, Prekindergarten Programs, High-Quality Prekindergarten, and more.