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Child Eligibility for Participation

The number of children who can be served in the CPP is capped at a level set by the General Assembly. It is the responsibility of the local preschool DAC to establish a clear policy for the determination of child eligibility. Because CPP is capped, it is important to have a well-planned process to ensure that the program serves children with the highest need. 

Significant Family Risk Factors

Colorado Preschool Program funds should only be used for children with disparities present in their lives that may impact future academic success. These "significant family risk factors," defined in legislation, that affect overall learning readiness must be present in a child’s life to qualify for CPP (one factor for children the year before kindergarten, and three factors for children two years away from kindergarten). These are defined by the legislature below (C.R.S. 22-28-106). To learn more about documentation and the significance of the risk factor, click the links.

The DAC may expand the list of significant family risk factors in order to meet the unique needs of the community (2228-R 5.04). However, starting with the 2020-21 school year, community-specific eligibility criteria must be approved by CDE prior to district use. In August 2019, CDE disseminated a memorandum to school districts that reported utilization of community-specific expanded eligibility criteria in their Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) 2019 Annual Report. Review the August 2019 CDE memo for additional background. If your district is interested in using community-specific eligibility criteria, please review the submission guide and application

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Age Requirements

  • Three-year-olds: Eligible three-year-olds must reach the age of three on or before the school district’s kindergarten age cutoff date which can be no later than October 1 (C.R.S. 22-54-103(9.5)(II)(b)(I))

  • Four-year-olds: Eligible four-year-olds must be age-eligible for kindergarten the following year and reach four on or before October 1 (C.R.S. 22-54-103(9.5)(II)(b)(II)). 

  • Five-Year-Olds: Eligible five-year-olds must be age-eligible for kindergarten the following school year. CPP/ECARE positions may not be used to serve kindergarten age-eligible children in preschool.

Age requirements are documented by:

  • Child’s Birth Certificate (a birth certificate is not required to be on file in order for a child to receive CPP funding)
  • Birth date from CPP application

Eligibility Determination Process

It is important to note the following requirements related to eligibility determination:

Three-year-olds (child is two years away from kindergarten): must have at least three significant family risk factors present in order to qualify for CPP (C.R.S. 22-28-106). 

Four-and Five-year-olds (child is one year away from kindergarten): must have at least one significant family risk factor present in order to qualify for CPP (C.R.S. 22-28-106). 

  • Documentation of eligibility criteria must be on file for all children funded through CPP. 
  • The parent(s) or legal guardian(s) must enter into an agreement with the program regarding their involvement in their child’s education.
  • A child who qualifies under IDEA as a child with a disability and thus eligible for a half-day of preschool general education may be funded for an additional half-day of programming if they meet the eligibility criteria of CPP. This additional CPP funding must be used to increase the hours of programming for the child.

Eligibility determination for participation in CPP is the responsibility of the school district, through the process developed by the DAC. Multiple methods should be used to determine a child’s eligibility, and personnel trained in both district enrollment policy and in administering screening tools should conduct all aspects of the eligibility determination. Community partner programs that the district contracts with to provide services should not be making eligibility determinations independently. The process should be comprehensive and include a combination of approaches that may include:

  • Family interviews
  • Observations of children in natural settings
  • Collection of demographic data
  • Standardized developmental screenings, conducted prior to children’s participation in preschool
  • Vision and hearing screenings, preferably conducted prior to children’s participation in preschool

Children should be determined eligible and families notified prior to attendance in the program. Many communities use the same screening tools for all children as part of a comprehensive developmental screening/application process. The results are used to determine eligibility for a variety of programs, such as CPP, Title I, and Head Start. A good screening process will also identify children who should be referred to Child Find for a special education evaluation due to a suspected disability. School districts are expected to conduct developmental, hearing, and vision screening prior to children’s attendance in preschool so that children, no matter what their funding source, with any needs requiring further intervention, can be identified as quickly as possible. When hearing and vision screening cannot be conducted prior to enrollment it should be completed within a short time (e.g. up to 30 days) of enrollment.

The intent of CPP is for children with the highest needs to receive services. Oftentimes, families in the most need are not proactively looking for preschool when registration begins in the spring, and may only think about the opportunity for preschool once school starts and older siblings return. Therefore, a “first come, first served” system for preschool enrollment is not endorsed by CDE as it is not equitable. CDE expects districts to plan to reserve 10-25% of total CPP/ECARE positions  for children identified as eligible in the fall (depending on the size of the community, the number of children that typically show up in the fall, number of CPP positions, the typical amount of children that move over the summer, etc.)

Here are some general requirements and recommendations around eligibility that should be discussed with the DAC to incorporate into your district’s plan: 

  • All children should have a developmental screening completed prior to enrollment, as well as intake paperwork, which includes documentation of the risk factors that make the child eligible.
  • This information must include a completed Family Economic Survey or confirmation of Free and Reduced Lunch paperwork on file.
  • Qualify children one year away from kindergarten in the spring first, along with children with the highest need who are two years away from kindergarten, if applicable. Depending on community needs, consider qualifying four-year-olds with at least two or more legislated risk factors in the spring.
  • While a DAC has the authority to request the use of additional risk factors that are unique to their community to qualify children, the required legislated significant family risk factors must also be in place.
  • Children who are age-eligible for kindergarten cannot receive CPP funding if they are attending preschool programming.
  • Keep families informed of how your district’s process works.  If families do not qualify in spring, let them know that there will be another round to qualify children in the fall by an established deadline. This may make it difficult for families to plan, but because of the limited number of positions and the requirement that the most at-risk children are served, it is important to save positions for fall so that the children who are most at-risk for academic failure have access to CPP programming.

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Free and Reduced-Price Lunch

Each year the CPP office at CDE is asked to provide information to the Department of Human Services and the Governor’s Office, regarding how many children funded in CPP are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. Per CDE memo, all programs should collect Free and Reduced lunch eligibility data for each child, even if the child is not qualifying under this factor. The Family Economic Survey may be used in place of the free and reduced lunch form. 

Documentation with income eligibility (or evidence of verification of the Free and Reduced Lunch form) should be kept in a central district location accessible by the CPP coordinator and available to CDE regional preschool specialists for audit during on-site visits. 

When verifying children’s eligibility for free and reduced-price meals, CPP coordinators should ensure that this information is also recorded in the school district’s October count. 

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U.S. Citizenship and CPP

The Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe that local school districts cannot deny admission to students who are not legally admitted into the United States. The court noted that such actions would impose a “lifetime of hardship on a discrete class of children not accountable for their disabling status. The stigma of illiteracy will mark them for the rest of their lives. By denying those children a basic education, we deny them the ability to live within the structure of our civic institutions, and foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of our Nation (457 U.S. 202)(1982)”

Students who are residents of a Colorado school district may not be denied admission to public schools based on their lawful or unlawful immigration status. “Determination of legality of a student’s immigration status is not a duty of the local school district nor is it necessary in determining the residency of a child. Undocumented children have the same right to attend public schools as to U.S. citizens and permanent residents.”  (Letter from the Commissioner of Education to Superintendents of Schools, Directors of BOCES, School Principals, and Other Interested Persons, January 1999).

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Based on the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA), students may not be denied access to preschool on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, religion, ancestry, or need for special education services (C.R.S. 24-34-301 through 24-34-805).

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Record Keeping

State regulations require that districts be able to verify that children participating in CPP are eligible. Each district will need to develop a method of record-keeping that is appropriate based on the number of CPP children served, whether or not the children are served at one site or at multiple sites. It is important to keep in mind that information regarding children’s eligibility for participation in CPP is sensitive and should be kept confidential. Many school districts do not store these records in their CPP classroom files but instead keep eligibility documentation filed by cohort year in a secure central location (2254-R-8.02).

This information should be readily available for auditing by your CDE Regional Preschool Specialist during a site visit. 

Required items per child funded by CPP:

  • Eligibility documentation form from CPP Toolkit and its supporting documents:
    • Family Economic Survey or confirmation of Free and Reduced Lunch eligibility if applicable 
    • Referrals from the County Department of Human Services or other agencies (exposure to domestic violence, drug use, foster child) if applicable
    • Notes or form from parent interview or home visit 
    • Screening results such as ASQ, DIAL 4, etc.
    • Preschool Application containing eligibility information such as:
      • Birthdate of child*
      • Age of birth parents at the birth of child
      • Living situation (homelessness, foster child)
      • Education status of parents

*Note that it is not necessary to collect copies of birth certificates or children’s social security numbers for children to receive CPP funding. 

It is recommended that each program shall retain cohort eligibility documentation and supporting documents for five years (2254-R-8.00).  

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