First Steps 4K: Information for Preschool Providers
SC First Steps is now accepting applications from preschool providers interested in participating in the First Steps 4K program during the 2015-2016 school year. For more information, click the provider application link below.
NEW: First Steps is now accepting provider applications in 64 school districts, including Anderson 2, Anderson 5 and Kershaw County. See below for details.
LEARN MORE, JOIN A TOLL-FREE INFORMATION CALL/WEBINAR
SC First Steps will be holding regular, toll-free information calls and webinars throughout the spring and summer of 2015. Register now to learn more about becoming a 4K provider.
Thursday, March 26, 2015 (3pm) – TO REGISTER CLICK HERE.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015 (9am) – TO REGISTER CLICK HERE.
Thursday, April 2, 2015 (10am) – TO REGISTER CLICK HERE.
For 2015-2016, participating providers will deliver high-quality early education to eligible children residing in the following districts:
Aiken, Abbeville, Allendale, Anderson 2*, Anderson 5*, Anderson 3, Bamberg 1, Bamberg 2, Barnwell 19, Barnwell 29, Barnwell 45, Berkeley, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Clarendon 1, Clarendon 2, Clarendon 3, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon 3, Dillon 4, Dorchester 4, Edgefield, Fairfield, Florence 1, Florence 2, Florence 3, Florence 4, Florence 5, Georgetown, Greenwood 50, Greenwood 51, Greenwood 52, Hampton 1, Hampton 2, Horry, Jasper, Kershaw*, Laurens 55, Laurens 56, Lee, Lexington 2, Lexington 3, Lexington 4, Marion, Marlboro, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Orangeburg 3, Orangeburg 4, Orangeburg 5, Richland 1, Saluda, Spartanburg 3, Spartanburg 4, Spartanburg 6, Spartanburg 7, Sumter, Union, Williamsburg and York 1.
* SC First Steps is now accepting preliminary provider applications for Anderson 2, Anderson 5 and Kershaw. These districts are projected for eligibility in 2015-2016 based on updated free- and reduced- price lunch data. Note that the participation of these district is contingent upon approval by the SC General Assembly.
Private providers seeking approval must be center-based, licensed or registered in good standing by the SC Department of Social Services, and meet each requirement detailed in First Steps’ 4K Guidelines (including employment of a qualified teacher, use of a research-based curriculum and regular monitoring by SC First Steps staff). Providers enrolling eligible children may receive up to $4,218 per child in tuition reimbursement, $550 per child transported, and $1,000 per child in materials/equipment funding ($10,000 limit). To qualify as a First Steps 4K Provider, your center need not be physically located within the boundaries of an eligible school district. Only students residing in these districts, however, will be eligible to receive tuition reimbursement.
To qualify, children must be four by September 1, reside in an eligible school district and qualify for free- or reduced-price school lunches or Medicaid.
To download a 4K Provider Application, click the link below.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
(NOTE: For additional details on these and other questions, please download the First Steps 4K Guidelines from the link above.)
Q: What is First Steps 4K? A: In June of 2014, the SC General Assembly permanently codified the state’s longstanding CDEPP 4K pilot program. The program is designed to expand full-day 4-year-old kindergarten in both school district and non-district settings.
South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness oversees the state’s 4K program in private, community/faith-based, Head Start and other non-school district settings. Programs operating within the state’s public school districts are overseen by the South Carolina Department of Education.
Q: Who decides where each eligible student will enroll? A: Parents are given the choice to enroll eligible children in either a public school or a private preschool setting approved by SC First Steps.
Q: What makes a child eligible to participate? A: Children must meet three separate eligibility criteria. Each child must be:
AGE ELIGIBLE: Participating children must be 4-years-old on or before September 1 of the applicable school year.
INCOME ELIGIBLE: Participating children must qualify for free- or reduced-price school lunch (family income is 185% of the federal poverty definition or below) or be Medicaid eligible.
GEOGRAPHICALLY ELIGIBLE: Participating children must reside in one of the following SC school districts: Aiken, Abbeville, Allendale, Anderson 3, Bamberg 1, Bamberg 2, Barnwell 19, Barnwell 29, Barnwell 45, Berkeley, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chester, Chesterfield, Clarendon 1, Clarendon 2, Clarendon 3, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon 3, Dillon 4, Dorchester 4, Edgefield, Fairfield, Florence 1, Florence 2, Florence 3, Florence 4, Florence 5, Georgetown, Greenwood 50, Greenwood 51, Greenwood 52, Hampton 1, Hampton 2, Horry, Jasper, Laurens 55, Laurens 56, Lee, Lexington 2, Lexington 3, Lexington 4, Marion, Marlboro, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Orangeburg 3, Orangeburg 4, Orangeburg 5, Richland 1, Saluda, Spartanburg 3, Spartanburg 4, Spartanburg 6, Spartanburg 7, Sumter, Union, Williamsburg and York 1.
Q: Do participating preschool providers have to be located within an eligible school district? A: Not necessarily. The First Steps 4K Program is designed to expand service to eligible children. Students meeting all three forms of eligibility (age, income and geography) may attend any approved program — even if the provider of choice is not located within the school district or county in which they reside.
Q: Which providers are eligible to participate? A: First Steps 4K is open to DSS-regulated (licensed, approved or registered) private for-profit, private non-profit, faith-based and Head Start providers willing to serve eligible children. Providers seek initial eligibility from South Carolina First Steps — a process that includes an application/site visit. Approved providers receive funding based on the number of eligible students they actually enroll and are subject to ongoing monitoring and technical assistance from SC First Steps.
Q: May providers charge tuition and fees above and beyond the fees they receive from the state? A: No, not for the school day itself. Tuition and fees may be charged for extended hours and wrap-around care.
Q: What is the length of the required instructional program? A: Approved 4K classrooms offer a 6.5 hour school day, 180 days per year.
Q: Is a specific curriculum required? A: Yes. Providers are required to utilize an approved, research-based curriculum aligned with South Carolina standards. Information on approved curricula is located in the First Steps 4K Guidelines.
Q: How are the 4K classrooms staffed? A: Both a lead teacher and a full-time instructional assistant staff each classroom of 11 or more students. Classrooms serving 10 students (the minimum class size) may be staffed by a lead teacher only.
Q: Who is qualified to serve as a lead teacher? A: Lead teachers are required to possess at least a two-year degree in early childhood education or a related field and be enrolled and demonstrating progress toward completion of a teacher education program within four years. For specific details on lead teacher qualifications, see the First Steps 4K Guidelines.
Q: Do programs have to provide transportation? A: No. However, the provision of transportation is considered desirable. Programs providing transportation for eligible children may receive up to $550 in additional funding for each student transported. Providers are permitted to set their own, reasonable transportation boundaries.
Q: What type of monitoring is involved? A: Providers are subject to both announced and unannounced monitoring and technical assistance visits from First Steps staff throughout the school year.