G. Eligibility for Special Programs

1. Prekindergarten

A school district must offer free prekindergarten if it identifies at least 15 eligible children who are at least four years old. Tex. Educ. Code § 29.153(a-1). A child is eligible for prekindergarten, without paying tuition, if the child is or ever has been in the conservatorship of DFPS following an Adversary Hearing held as provided by Tex. Fam. Code § 262.201, or in foster care in another state or territory if the child resides in Texas. Tex. Educ. Code § 29.153(b)(6). A child who is eligible under Tex. Educ. Code § 29.153(b) at the age of three remains eligible for prekindergarten for the following school year. Tex. Educ. Code § 29.153(g).

Special Issue: The school district will require a prekindergarten verification letter from DFPS to verify eligibility for children currently or formerly in DFPS conservatorship. For children not in Texas DFPS conservatorship, the letters will likely need to be obtained through the child welfare agency of the state where the child was in foster care.

2. Compensatory, Intensive, or Accelerated Instruction

Students in foster care are considered to be at risk of dropping out of school and are eligible for supplemental education services. Tex. Educ. Code § 29.081(d)(1)(K). A school district shall offer an intensive program of instruction to any student who does not perform satisfactorily on an assessment instrument administered under Tex. Educ. Code Chapter 39, Subchapter B, or is not likely to receive a high school diploma before the fifth school year following the student's enrollment in the 9th grade, as determined by the district. Tex. Educ. Code § 28.0213(a).

Special Issue: The 87th Legislature instructed TEA to establish a program for supplemental special education services and instructional materials for eligible students who receive special education. Tex. Educ. Code § 29.041- 29.050. Eligible students may receive a grant up to $1,500 for compensatory educational services. This law expires September 1, 2024.

3. Nutrition

Students in foster care are categorically eligible for all U.S. Department of Agriculture child nutrition programs including the National School Lunch Program / School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. 42 U.S.C. § 1758.

Special Issue: Schools use DFPS Form 2085 to verify that a child is in foster care and thus eligible for free school meals. If it is not otherwise addressed in the court reports, a court might ask the caseworker about whether the child's nutritional needs are being met in both the school and home settings. Foster or relative caregivers may not be required to provide personal financial information to determine eligibility.

4. Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN)

Each school district must have a written policy about opportunities to enroll in electronic courses provided by TxVSN. Tex. Educ. Code § 30A.007. Children in foster care are eligible for part-time or full-time enrollment in the TxVSN, regardless of whether the student was enrolled in a public school in this state in the preceding school year. Tex. Educ. Code § 30A.002.

Special Issue: The TxVSN is an online resource offered by state certified teachers that can assist students in foster care with obtaining course credit. On a case-by-case basis, DFPS will determine whether enrollment in virtual instruction is appropriate for a child in foster care. If the child receives special education services, that determination will be made in consultation with the child's ARD committee.

5. Early College

An at-risk student, as defined by Tex. Educ. Code § 29.081, can participate in an early college education program that:

•   Enables a participating student to combine high school courses and college-level courses during grade levels 9 through 12;

•   Allows a participating student to complete high school and enroll in a program at an institute of higher education that will enable the student to, on or before the fifth anniversary of the date of the student's first day of high school, receive a high school diploma and either an applied associate degree as defined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THEB) rule; or an academic associate degree, as defined by the THEB rule, with a completed field of study curriculum developed under Tex. Educ. Code § 61.823 that is transferable toward a baccalaureate degree at one or more general academic teaching institutions, as defined by Tex. Educ. Code § 61.003;

•   Includes articulation agreements with colleges, universities, and technical schools in this state to provide a participating student access to postsecondary educational and training opportunities at a college, university, or technical school; and

•   Provides a participating student flexibility in class scheduling and academic mentoring. Tex. Educ. Code § 29.908.

6. Dual Credit

Each school district shall implement a program under which students may earn the equivalent of at least 12 semester credit hours of college credit in high school. Tex. Educ. Code § 28.009(a).

A program implemented under Tex. Educ. Code § 28.009 must provide a student the opportunity to earn credit for a course or activity, including an apprenticeship or training hours:

•   Which satisfies a requirement necessary to obtain an industry-recognized credential or certificate or an associate degree and is approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB); and

•   For which a student may earn credit concurrently toward both the student's high school diploma and postsecondary academic requirements. Tex. Educ. Code § 28.009(a-1).

A school district is not required to pay a student's tuition or other associated costs for taking a course under this section. Tex. Educ. Code § 28.009(a-2).