A district or a group of districts may establish a school readiness program for children age three to kindergarten entrance. The purpose of a school readiness program is to prepare children to enter kindergarten.
A school readiness program provider must:
(1) assess each child's cognitive skills with a comprehensive child assessment instrument when the child enters and again before the child leaves the program to inform program planning and parents and promote kindergarten readiness;
(2) provide comprehensive program content and intentional instructional practice aligned with the state early childhood learning guidelines and kindergarten standards and based on early childhood research and professional practice that is focused on children's cognitive, social, emotional, and physical skills and development and prepares children for the transition to kindergarten, including early literacy skills;
(3) coordinate appropriate kindergarten transition with parents and kindergarten teachers;
(4) involve parents in program planning and decision making;
(5) coordinate with relevant community-based services;
(6) cooperate with adult basic education programs and other adult literacy programs;
(7) ensure staff-child ratios of one-to-ten and maximum group size of 20 children with the first staff required to be a teacher; and
(8) have teachers knowledgeable in early childhood curriculum content, assessment, and instruction.
(a) A school readiness program provider must submit a biennial plan for approval by the commissioner before receiving aid under section 124D.16. The plan must describe how the program meets the program requirements under subdivision 3. A school district by April 1 must submit the plan for approval by the commissioner in the form and manner prescribed by the commissioner. One-half the districts must first submit the plan by April 1, 2006, and one-half the districts must first submit the plan by April 1, 2007, as determined by the commissioner.
(b) Programs receiving school readiness funds annually must submit a report to the department.
A district may contract with a charter school or community-based organization to provide eligible children developmentally appropriate services that meet the program requirements in subdivision 3. In the alternative, a district may pay tuition or fees to place an eligible child in an existing program. A district may establish a new program where no existing, reasonably accessible program meets the program requirements in subdivision 3. Districts must submit a copy of each contract to the commissioner with the biennial plan. Services may be provided in a site-based program or in the home of the child or a combination of both. The district may not restrict participation to district residents.
A program provided by a board must be supervised by a licensed early childhood teacher, a certified early childhood educator, or a licensed parent educator.
A district must adopt a sliding fee schedule based on a family's income but must waive a fee for a participant unable to pay. School districts must use school readiness aid for eligible children. Children who do not meet the eligibility requirements in subdivision 15 may participate on a fee-for-service basis.
The department must assist districts, upon request, with programs under this section.
A child is eligible to participate in a school readiness program if the child:
(1) is at least three years old on September 1;
(3) has one or more of the following risk factors:
(i) qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch;
(ii) is an English language learning child;
(iii) is homeless;
(iv) has an individualized education program (IEP) or an individual interagency intervention plan (IIIP);
(vi) is defined as at-risk by the school district.