When the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3 during the 86th Legislative Session, it created a new requirement for charters and all other public schools to provide full-day Pre-K for all eligible 4-year-olds. This new Pre-K requirement goes into effect for the 2019-20 school year and applies to all charters who are authorized in their charter to serve Pre-K students. For most charters, the new full-day Pre-K requirement is difficult or impossible to implement by the start of the new school year. Some charters who are authorized to serve Pre-K have never had a Pre-K program. Moreover, the new full-day Pre-K requirement is not fully-funded through regular ADA funds. Charters must use their new Early Education Allotment and Compensatory Education Allotment to supplement regular half-day ADA funds for full-day Pre-K.

Fortunately, House Bill 3 requires the Education Commissioner to grant waivers for providing any or all parts of new Pre-K requirements. Therefore, the Commissioner recently released guidance indicating that Pre-K waivers applications would be available by January 2020 at the latest to cover the 2019-20 school year. Charters should not attempt to submit a Pre-K waiver under the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Waiver Unit before then. If charters submit a waiver through the online TEAL system, e.g. under “Other Specific Waivers,” TEA will deny the request outright.

In the meantime, charters planning to submit a Pre-K waiver application in January must fulfill a few requirements before TEA will approve the Pre-K waiver. Charters must demonstrate (per House Bill 3) that, 1) they would need to construct, repurpose, or lease a classroom facility, or issue bonds for the construction or repurposing of a classroom facility; or 2) implementation of full-day Pre-K would result in fewer eligible children being enrolled in prekindergarten. TEA has not issued official guidance on how implementing a Pre-K program could result in fewer eligible children being enrolled in prekindergarten. Charters will need to make the case given their specific situations.

Furthermore, charters must consider, at a public meeting, proposals for partnerships with public or private entities regarding offering full-day Pre-K for eligible four-year-old students. To assist members, TCSA is providing links to eligible partners for providing full-day Pre-K. Charters should research which public or private providers would be a good fit for their district, contact the public or private providers and communicate to them what type of program their charter would like. The Commissioner said that charters can require anything they like from the public or private Pre-K provider (e.g. curriculum, the structure of the school day, etc.) and that these requirements would be stipulated in a contract between the charter and public or private Pre-K provider.

To research and select public or private providers, charters can visit the following links: Texas Rising Star Program provider list: https://www.hotworkforce.com/Downloads/TRS%20List%207_1_2019%20by%20counties.pdf; Texas School Ready! participant list: https://www.texasschoolready.org/find-tsr; Texas Head Start Program provider locator: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/center-locator?latitude=31.969&longitude=-99.902&state=TX&type=1; Licensed Child Care Facility Locator: https://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Care/Search_Texas_Child_Care/ppFacilitySearchDayCare.asp.

If charters have any questions as they are working to fulfill these requirements to obtain a Pre-K waiver for 2019-20, they can feel free to contact Timothy Mattison, Director of Policy and Research at TCSA, via email tmattison@txcharterschools.org and by phone (512) 584-8272, ext. 309.