A district, a charter school, a group of districts, a group of charter schools, or a group of districts and charter schools may establish a voluntary prekindergarten program. The purpose of a voluntary prekindergarten program is to prepare children for success as they enter kindergarten in the following year.
(a) A voluntary prekindergarten program provider must:
(1) provide instruction through play-based learning to foster children's social and emotional development, cognitive development, physical and motor development, and language and literacy skills, including the native language and literacy skills of English learners, to the extent practicable;
(2) measure each child's cognitive and social skills using a formative measure aligned to the state's early learning standards when the child enters and again before the child leaves the program, screening and progress monitoring measures, and others from the state-approved menu of kindergarten entry profile measures;
(3) provide comprehensive program content including the implementation of curriculum, assessment, and instructional strategies aligned with the state early learning standards, and kindergarten through grade 3 academic standards;
(4) provide instructional content and activities that are of sufficient length and intensity to address learning needs including offering a program with at least 350 hours of instruction per school year for a prekindergarten student;
(5) provide voluntary prekindergarten instructional staff salaries comparable to the salaries of local kindergarten through grade 12 instructional staff;
(6) coordinate appropriate kindergarten transition with families, community-based prekindergarten programs, and school district kindergarten programs;
(7) involve parents in program planning and transition planning by implementing parent engagement strategies that include culturally and linguistically responsive activities in prekindergarten through third grade that are aligned with early childhood family education under section 124D.13;
(8) coordinate with relevant community-based services, including health and social service agencies, to ensure children have access to comprehensive services;
(9) coordinate with all relevant school district programs and services including early childhood special education, homeless students, and English learners;
(10) ensure staff-to-child ratios of one-to-ten and a maximum group size of 20 children;
(11) provide high-quality coordinated professional development, training, and coaching for both school district and community-based early learning providers that is informed by a measure of adult-child interactions and enables teachers to be highly knowledgeable in early childhood curriculum content, assessment, native and English language development programs, and instruction; and
(12) implement strategies that support the alignment of professional development, instruction, assessments, and prekindergarten through grade 3 curricula.
(b) A voluntary prekindergarten program must have teachers knowledgeable in early childhood curriculum content, assessment, native and English language programs, and instruction.
(c) Districts and charter schools must include their strategy for implementing and measuring the impact of their voluntary prekindergarten program under section 120B.11 and provide results in their world's best workforce annual summary to the commissioner of education.
A district or charter school may contract with a charter school, Head Start or child care centers, family child care programs licensed under section 245A.03, or a community-based organization to provide eligible children with developmentally appropriate services that meet the program requirements in subdivision 2. Components of a mixed-delivery plan include strategies for recruitment, contracting, and monitoring of fiscal compliance and program quality.
A child who is four years of age as of September 1 in the calendar year in which the school year commences is eligible to participate in a voluntary prekindergarten program free of charge. Each eligible child must complete a health and developmental screening within 90 days of program enrollment under sections 121A.16 to 121A.19, and provide documentation of required immunizations under section 121A.15.
(a) To qualify for program approval for fiscal year 2017, a district or charter school must submit an application to the commissioner by July 1, 2016. To qualify for program approval for fiscal year 2018 and later, a district or charter school must submit an application to the commissioner by January 30 of the fiscal year prior to the fiscal year in which the program will be implemented. The application must include:
(1) a description of the proposed program, including the number of hours per week the program will be offered at each school site or mixed-delivery location;
(2) an estimate of the number of eligible children to be served in the program at each school site or mixed-delivery location; and
(3) a statement of assurances signed by the superintendent or charter school director that the proposed program meets the requirements of subdivision 2.
(b) The commissioner must review all applications submitted for fiscal year 2017 by August 1, 2016, and must review all applications submitted for fiscal year 2018 and later by March 1 of the fiscal year in which the applications are received and determine whether each application meets the requirements of paragraph (a).
(c) The commissioner must divide all applications for new or expanded voluntary prekindergarten programs under this section meeting the requirements of paragraph (a) and school readiness plus programs into four groups as follows: the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts; other school districts located in the metropolitan equity region as defined in section 126C.10, subdivision 28; school districts located in the rural equity region as defined in section 126C.10, subdivision 28; and charter schools. Within each group, the applications must be ordered by rank using a sliding scale based on the following criteria:
(1) concentration of kindergarten students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches by school site on October 1 of the previous school year. A school site may contract to partner with a community-based provider or Head Start under subdivision 3 or establish an early childhood center and use the concentration of kindergarten students eligible for free or reduced-price meals from a specific school site as long as those eligible children are prioritized and guaranteed services at the mixed-delivery site or early education center. For school district programs to be operated at locations that do not have free and reduced-price lunch concentration data for kindergarten programs for October 1 of the previous school year, including mixed-delivery programs, the school district average concentration of kindergarten students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches must be used for the rank ordering;
(2) presence or absence of a three- or four-star Parent Aware rated program within the school district or close proximity of the district. School sites with the highest concentration of kindergarten students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches that do not have a three- or four-star Parent Aware program within the district or close proximity of the district shall receive the highest priority, and school sites with the lowest concentration of kindergarten students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches that have a three- or four-star Parent Aware rated program within the district or close proximity of the district shall receive the lowest priority; and
(3) whether the district has implemented a mixed delivery system.
(d) The limit on participation for the programs as specified in subdivision 6 must initially be allocated among the four groups based on each group's percentage share of the statewide kindergarten enrollment on October 1 of the previous school year. Within each group, the participation limit for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 must first be allocated to school sites approved for aid in the previous year to ensure that those sites are funded for the same number of participants as approved for the previous year. The remainder of the participation limit for each group must be allocated among school sites in priority order until that region's share of the participation limit is reached. If the participation limit is not reached for all groups, the remaining amount must be allocated to the highest priority school sites, as designated under this section, not funded in the initial allocation on a statewide basis. For fiscal year 2020 and later, the participation limit must first be allocated to school sites approved for aid in fiscal year 2017, and then to school sites approved for aid in fiscal year 2018 based on the statewide rankings under paragraph (c).
(e) Once a school site or a mixed delivery site under subdivision 3 is approved for aid under this subdivision, it shall remain eligible for aid if it continues to meet program requirements, regardless of changes in the concentration of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.
(f) If the total number of participants approved based on applications submitted under paragraph (a) is less than the participation limit under subdivision 6, the commissioner must notify all school districts and charter schools of the amount that remains available within 30 days of the initial application deadline under paragraph (a), and complete a second round of allocations based on applications received within 60 days of the initial application deadline.
(g) Procedures for approving applications submitted under paragraph (f) shall be the same as specified in paragraphs (a) to (d), except that the allocations shall be made to the highest priority school sites not funded in the initial allocation on a statewide basis.
(a) Notwithstanding section 126C.05, subdivision 1, paragraph (d), the pupil units for a voluntary prekindergarten program for an eligible school district or charter school must not exceed 60 percent of the kindergarten pupil units for that school district or charter school under section 126C.05, subdivision 1, paragraph (e).
(b) In reviewing applications under subdivision 5, the commissioner must limit the estimated state aid entitlement approved under this section to $27,092,000 for fiscal year 2017. If the actual state aid entitlement based on final data exceeds the limit in any year, the aid of the participating districts must be prorated so as not to exceed the limit.
(c) The commissioner must limit the total number of funded participants in the voluntary prekindergarten program under this section to not more than 3,160.
(d) Notwithstanding paragraph (c), the commissioner must limit the total number of participants in the voluntary prekindergarten and school readiness plus programs to not more than 6,160 participants for fiscal year 2018 and 7,160 participants for fiscal year 2019.