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School District Responsibilities for Preschool Inclusion in Publicly Funded Prekindergarten Programs

The purpose of this field advisory is to supplement and clarify existing New York State (NYS) and federal guidance pertaining to the expectations for the inclusion of preschool students with disabilities in prekindergarten programs operated or administered by a school district (PreK) including State-administered prekindergarten programs1 and district prekindergarten programs that are government-funded and free for those who attend it. The continued expansion of these early learning opportunities offers high-quality, developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate educational environments for young children to learn and grow. As of July 1, 2021, NYS will be investing $970 million into State-administered prekindergarten programs. This figure will most likely be $1 billion by the end of the 2023-24 school year due to expansion grants.

1 As of the date of this memo, there are four State-Administered Prekindergarten programs for three- and four- year old children in New York State including Targeted Prekindergarten (TPK), Universal Prekindergarten (UPK), Statewide Universal Full-Day Prekindergarten (SUFDPK), and Federal-Funded Expanded Universal Prekindergarten.

Additional Federal and NYS Guidance and Resources

Dear Colleague Letter on Preschool Least Restrictive Environments (2017) OSEP: Reaffirms the position of the United States Department of Education (USDE) that all young children with disabilities have access to inclusive high-quality early childhood programs where they are provided with individualized and appropriate supports to enable them to meet high expectations.

Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs: The USDE and Health and Human Services released joint guidance detailing the legal foundation, evidence-based practices, state and local level infrastructure recommendations, and resources to support inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood programs.

School Districts’ Responsibilities to Provide Students with Disabilities with Specially- Designed Instruction and Related Services in the Least Restrictive Environment: A comprehensive special education field advisory was published to outline School Districts’ LRE responsibilities.

Emergent Multilingual Learners in Prekindergarten Programs Resources: Language Profile, Profile Process, Emergent Multilingual Learners Profile Process Flow Chart, Guidance on Identification, Instructional Planning and Programming, and Parent Brochure translated into 11 Languages.

Questions and Answers

NYSED is interested in how it may further assist and support school districts as they implement inclusive preschool programs. Please submit additional questions, comments, or areas where assistance is needed to sends e-mail). NYSED will use information from the field to inform future guidance and policy, including the development of an additional Questions and Answers document to accompany the below information contained in this guidance. As an initial step, below please find responses to some previously submitted questions:

1. How can SCIS students be dually enrolled in both programs (PreK and preschool special education)? What procedures must districts follow?

The preschool student with a disability would be counted in the PreK program enrollment and also the preschool special education (also known as 4410 program) enrollment. The school district would follow the separate enrollment procedures that are applicable to both programs, and the child would be considered enrolled in both programs.

2. How can a school district access both funding sources (PreK and 4410) for students who are dually enrolled in PreK and SCIS?

PreK funding is based on student counts. The preschool student with a disability would contribute toward the student count for PreK funding. The 4410 funding for SCIS is based on enrollment, the student would contribute toward the enrollment for the SCIS program to share in the expenses that are allocated toward that program and paid via a NYSED authorized tuition rate.

3. What is a SCIS collaborative agreement?

A collaborative agreement is an agreement between two programs. Typically, it is between a program approved by NYSED to provide SCIS and a regular early childhood program (such as a PreK program). While there are not specific forms for the agreement, it must include the following factors:

  • Description of the shared mission, goals, and outcomes;
  • Definition of the programmatic and financial responsibilities of the collaborative partners;
  • Delineation of leadership roles and responsibilities by title and/or position;
  • Description of services to be provided by each collaborative partner;
  • Plan for communication, including schedule for meetings;
  • Procedures for conflict resolution;
  • Financial plan which clearly allocates costs based on the funding agency for each partner;
  • Description of how confidentiality of personally identifiable data, information and records pertaining to the students with disabilities will be ensured; and
  • Specified time period of the agreement and the conditions for renewal.
4. How do school districts determine what to claim regarding funding for dually enrolled students in PreK and SCIS?

That would be established in the collaborative agreement. 4410 funding is assigned only to the preschool students with disabilities and may be allocated on the basis that the expense is reasonable, necessary, and directly related to the provision of special education or related services (for a center-based program this includes both direct care services and also facility, supplies, administration, etc.). PreK funding may be assigned to both preschoolers with and without disabilities enrolled in the program. Approved expenditures for PreK are defined in Commissioner’s Regulations 151-1.2(a) as “any expenses for which grant funds may be used, such as, but not limited to, program components, professional salaries, professional development, support services, materials and supplies, administrative support services, transportation services, leasing expenses or other appropriate facilities expenses and other costs as approved by the commissioner.”

5. Is there an approval time to consider for dual enrollment?

All SCIS programs and program sites are required to be approved by NYSED. If the 4410 provider is approved by NYSED to operate a SCIS program and the district or district’s community-based organization meets PreK program requirements, there is no separate NYSED approval needed for dual enrollment.

6. Is the county responsible for funding transportation for students enrolled in SCIS?

Yes, for the preschool students with disabilities per the IEP.