Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions on Early Childhood in Texas
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 charter school?
- May school districts serve ineligible children in prekindergarten?
- What is the income level for a household to qualify as educationally disadvantaged?
- Are school districts required to serve three-year-old students who are eligible?
- May districts keep waiting lists of eligible children who are not being served?
Frequently asked questions by category on early childhood
- Eligibility and Attendance
- Full/Half Day Programs
- School Readiness Integration (SRI) Partnerships
- Prekindergarten Instruction
- Five-Year-Olds & Three-Year-Olds
- Waiting Lists and Waivers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Section 4.11-4.12
If starting a private school, please visit the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC) and International Association for Learner Driven Schools (IALDS) 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 care provider.
Citation: Sec. 42.041, Human Resources Code
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 tuition 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
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.
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.
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 Category IV.
Citation: TEC §29.153(a)