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Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities

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Program Office: Office of Special Education Programs

CFDA Number: 84.173

Program Type: Formula Grants

Also Known As: Special Education Preschool Grants, Part B, Sec. 619


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Program Description

The Preschool Grants program provides formula grants to states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to make available special education and related services for children with disabilities aged 3 through 5. In order to be eligible for these grants, states must serve all eligible children with disabilities aged 3 through 5 and have an approved application under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ( IDEA ). A state that does not make a free appropriate public education (FAPE) available to all children with disabilities aged 3 through 5 cannot receive funds under this program or funds attributable to this age range under the IDEA Grants to States program. Currently, all States are making FAPE available to all children aged 3 through 5 with disabilities.

At their discretion, states may include preschool-aged children who are experiencing developmental delays, as defined by the State and as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, who need special education and related services. If consistent with state policy, state and local educational agencies also may use funds received under this program to provide FAPE to 2-year olds with disabilities who will turn 3 during the school year. IDEA requires that, to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities are educated with children who are not disabled and that removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes, with the use of supplementary aids and services, cannot be achieved satisfactorily. However, states are not required to provide public preschool programs for the general population. For this reason, preschool-aged children with disabilities are served in a variety of settings, including public or private preschool programs, regular kindergarten, Head Start programs, and child care facilities.

Funds are distributed to eligible entities through a formula based on general population and poverty. Under the formula, each State is first allocated an amount equal to its fiscal year 1997 allocation. For any year in which the appropriation is greater than the prior year level, 85 percent of the funds above the fiscal year 1997 level are distributed based on each State's relative percentage of the total number of children aged 3 through 5 in the general population. The other 15 percent is distributed based on the relative percentage of children aged 3 through 5 in each state who are living in poverty.

States must distribute the bulk of their grant awards to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs). They may retain funds for state-level activities up to an amount equal to 25 percent of the amount they received for fiscal year 1997 under the Preschool Grants program, adjusted upward each year by the lesser of the rate of increase in the state's allocation or the rate of inflation. The amount that may be used for administration is limited to 20 percent of the amount available to a State for State-level activities. These funds may also be used for the administration of the Grants for Infants and Families program (Part C). State-level activities include:

  1. support services, including establishing and implementing a mediation process, which may benefit children with disabilities younger than 3 or older than 5, as long as those services also benefit children with disabilities aged 3 through 5;

  2. direct services for children eligible under this program;

  3. activities at the state and local level to meet the goals established by the state for the performance of children with disabilities in the state; and

  4. supplements to other funds used to develop and implement a statewide coordinated services system designed to improve results for children and families, including children with disabilities and their families, but not to exceed 1 percent of the amount received by the State under this program for a fiscal year.

The state may also use its set-aside funds to provide early intervention services. These services must include an educational component that promotes school readiness and incorporates preliteracy, language, and numeracy skills. In addition, they must be provided in accordance with the Grants for Infants and Families program to children who are eligible for services under the Preschool Grants program and who previously received services under Part C until such children enter or are eligible to enter kindergarten and, at a state's discretion, to continue service coordination or case management for families who receive services under Part C.

The number of children served under this program decreased slightly from 749,166 in fiscal year 2013 to 744,741 in fiscal year 2014; however, this count does not include data from Wyoming due to poor data quality. Based on historical child count data, the 2014 count would be a slight decrease from the previous year. The decrease in 2014 was the first since 2009. The variations in the total number of children served and data quality issues make it difficult to forecast the number of children being served in future fiscal years. In the absence of better information, the Department predicts that the number of children with disabilities aged 3 through 5 will remain at the 2014 level for fiscal years 2015 and 2016. This is a forward funded program. Funds become available for obligation on July 1 of the fiscal year in which they are appropriated and remain available through September 30 of the following year

  1. the percent the appropriation grew above the prior year, minus 1.5 percent, or,

  2. 90 percent of the percentage increase above the prior year.

The formula also provides for a minimum increase in state allocations of 1/3 of 1 percent of the increase in the appropriation over the base year and places a ceiling on how much the allocation to a state may increase, in that no state may be allocated an increase above the prior year greater than the percent of growth in the appropriation from the prior year plus 1.5 percent. These provisions help ensure that every state receives a part of any increase and that there is no radical shift in resources among the states.

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Last Modified: 05/05/2016