First Steps 4K: Information for Preschool Providers
South Carolina First Steps is accepting applications from private (non-school district) preschool providers capable of serving eligible children residing in the following 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.
Private providers seeking approval must be center-based, licensed or registered in good standing by the SC Department of Social Services, and willing to commit to additional 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 CDEPP 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 the South Carolina Child Development Education Pilot Program? A: In May of 2006 the South Carolina General Assembly created a pilot program designed to expand full-day 4-year-old kindergarten in both school district and non-district settings.
Q: Who administers the program? A: South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness oversees 4K expansion in private, community/faith-based, Head Start and other non-school district settings. Expansion within the state’s public school districts is 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 of age on or before Sept. 1.
- INCOME ELIGIBLE: Participating children must qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program (family income is 185% of the federal poverty margin or below) or be Medicaid eligible.
- GEOGRAPHICALLY ELIGIBLE: Participating children must reside in one of 61 eligible 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 Expansion 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 both an application and site visit. Approved providers receive First Steps funding based on the number of eligible students they actually enroll.
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 (or be granted a waiver of this requirement by South Carolina First Steps) 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: Who is qualified to serve as an instructional assistant? A: Instructional assistants must possess a high school diploma or its equivalent and have at least two years of experience working with children under five-years-old. Instructional assistants must have completed the Early Childhood Development Credential (ECD) 101, or enroll in and complete this course within 12 months of hire.
Q: What types of professional development are required of staff? A: All classroom staff (both teachers and instructional assistants) are required to complete at least 15 hours of professional development annually, to include hours in emergent literacy and teaching children in poverty.
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.
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