For many young children experiencing homelessness, remaining in the school of origin provides their only access to preschool; when children move into a new community due to homelessness, enrolling in a local preschool usually is impossible, either because there are no preschool programs available, or those that are available already are full.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) amended the McKinney-Vento Act to include preschools specifically within the definition of “school of origin.”[i] As a result, children experiencing homelessness can remain in the preschool they attended when permanently housed, or the preschool in which they were last enrolled, if that is in their best interest.[ii] This right to remain in the same preschool includes the right to receive transportation to preschool (even if preschool transportation is not typically provided)[iii], and continues for as long as the child is homeless, and until the end of the academic year in which the child moves into permanent housing.[iv]
Neither ESSA nor U.S. Department of Education (ED) Guidance includes a specific definition of “preschool.” To determine whether a particular early childhood education program is a “preschool” under ESSA, a helpful reference is the definition ED uses for McKinney-Vento data collection.[v]
Per the U.S. Department of Education’s data collection, specific examples of preschool programs that meet this definition include:
- Preschool programs operated or administered by an LEA;
- Head Start programs receiving funding from an LEA or for which an LEA receives the grant;
- Preschool special education services operated or funded by the LEA or mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
- Preschool programs and services administered or funded by the LEA through the use of Title I or similar government grants; and
- Home-based early childhood educational services funded and administered by an LEA.
This flow chart provides a guide to understanding that definition. The document also helps explain the concept of “feeder schools” as they apply to preschool programs under ESSA’s amendments to the McKinney-Vento Act.
[i] 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(3)(I).
[ii] 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(3)(A).
[iii] 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(1)(J)(iii).
[iv] 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(3)(B).
[v] [E]arly childhood education programs for children aged 0-5, funded through tax dollars or other public funds, and for which the LEA is a financial or administrative agent or for which the LEA is accountable for providing early childhood education services.” Examples of preschool programs included in federal data collection include preschool programs operated or administered by an LEA; Head Start programs receiving funding from the LEA or for which the LEA is the grant recipient; preschool special education services, operated or funded by the LEA or mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; preschool programs and services administered or funded by the LEA through the use of Title I or similar government grants; or home-based early childhood educational services funded and administered by an LEA.” National Center for Homeless Education (2016). Guide to Reporting Federal Data. nche.ed.gov/downloads/data-guide-15-16.pdf.