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Serving Children with Disabilities FAQs

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding California state law relating to serving children with disabilities (CWD) in California State Preschool Programs (CSPP).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Serving Children with Disabilities in California State Preschool Programs (CSPP)

Definitions
Documentation
Enrollment
Funding
Income and Family Fees
Set Aside
Monitoring the Set Aside
Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA)
Child Development Management Information System (CDMIS)

Definitions

  1. Who is considered a child with exceptional needs?

    According to Education Code (EC) Section 8205(h) “Children with exceptional needs” means either of the following:

    (1) Children under three years of age who have been determined to be eligible for early intervention services pursuant to the California Early Intervention Services Act (Title 14 [commencing with Section 95000] of the Government Code) and its implementing regulations. These children include an infant or toddler with a developmental delay or established risk condition, or who is at high risk of having a substantial developmental disability, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 95014 of the Government Code. These children shall have active Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) and shall be receiving early intervention services.

    (2) Children 3 to 21 years of age, inclusive, who have been determined to be eligible for special education and related services by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team according to the special education requirements contained in Part 30 (commencing with Section 56000) of Division 4 of Title 2, and who meet eligibility criteria described in Section 56026 and Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 56333) of Chapter 4 of Part 30 of Division 4 of Title 2, and sections 3030 and 3031 of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations. These children shall have an active IEP and shall be receiving early intervention services or appropriate special education.

    Therefore, children with exceptional needs must have an active IFSP or IEP and be receiving services or appropriate special education.

  2. Who is considered a child with severe disabilities?

    The definition of “children with severe disabilities” from Education Code Section 8205(s) are children with exceptional needs from birth to 21 years of age, inclusive, who require intensive instruction and training in programs serving pupils with the following profound disabilities: autism, blindness, deafness, severe orthopedic impairments, serious emotional disturbances, or severe intellectual disabilities. “Children with severe disabilities” also include those individuals who would have been eligible for enrollment in a developmental center for handicapped pupils under Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 56800) of Part 30 of Division 4 of Title 2 as it read on January 1, 1980. All children with severe disabilities must meet the statutory definition of a child with exceptional needs, therefore the child must have an active Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) and be receiving services or appropriate special education.

  3. Is a child diagnosed with a medical disability automatically determined eligible as a child with exceptional needs? Can California State Preschool Program (CSPP) contractors accept documentation of services through a medical provider?

    A medical diagnosis of a disability alone does not meet the definition of a child with exceptional needs. Rather, the definition of a child with exceptional needs requires a determination that the child is eligible for early intervention services or special education and related services pursuant to applicable law; and requires the child to have an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and be receiving services or appropriate special education. For example, while a child may have a medical diagnosis of autism from their doctor, the medical diagnosis alone does not qualify the child as a child with exceptional needs. Nevertheless, if a child is referred for an assessment to determine whether the child is eligible for early intervention services or special education and related services, the family may provide the child’s medical diagnosis documentation as part of the referral or assessment process. If the child is determined eligible, has an active IFSP or IEP, and is receiving early intervention services or appropriate special education, then the child counts as a child with exceptional needs.

  4. What does it mean for California State Preschool Program (CSPP) contractors to "fill" the set aside? (Updated)

    Filling the set aside means that contractors enroll enough children with exceptional needs to fully earn the percentage of funded enrollment that is set aside. For example, in 2025–26, filling the set aside would mean that contractors would enroll enough children with exceptional needs to fully earn the 7.5 percent set aside. Beginning in 2026–27, contractors are required to fill the 10 percent set aside.

  5. Does a child with a 504 plan count as a child with exceptional needs?

    No, in order to qualify as a child with exceptional needs, the child must have an active Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP), and be receiving early intervention services or appropriate special education. A 504 plan is not an IEP.

  6. Does a child with an Individual Program Plan (IPP) count as a child with exceptional needs?

    No, in order to qualify as a child with exceptional needs, the child must have an active Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP), and be receiving early intervention services or appropriate special education. An Individual Program Plan (IPP) is not an IEP.

Documentation

  1. How do California State Preschool Program (CSPP) contractors document self-certification of income?

    Self-certification should be documented in the family file and means that there should be a declaration signed by the parent under penalty of perjury identifying the amount of their income.

  2. What is an example of documenting continuity of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for California State Preschool Program (CSPP)?

    An example of documenting continuity of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) can be a Notice of an IEP meeting stating that a future IEP meeting is scheduled.

  3. How do California State Preschool Program (CSPP) contractors get a copy of the required documentation from the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

    One way to get a copy of the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) is to ask the parent for a copy. Parents must provide written authorization to the local educational agency (LEA) before the LEA may provide a copy of the student’s IEP to the contractor. Contractors may contact their Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) for assistance with this process.

    For the LEA to provide a copy to the contractor, the parents must provide written authorization unless the contractor is the LEA, then no additional authorization is necessary.

Enrollment

  1. Can a child enrolled in a Special Day Class (SDC) also be enrolled in California State Preschool Program (CSPP)? (Added January 2024)

    Yes, an age-eligible child may also be enrolled in California State Preschool Program (CSPP) if the certified CSPP hours do not overlap with the hours the child is enrolled in the Special Day Class (SDC).

  2. Are children with disabilities able to attend part-day California State Preschool Program (CSPP) fewer than five days per week if they are also enrolled in a special education program like a Special Day Class (SDC)? (Added January 2024)

    Yes, however the child’s certified schedule must only be for the days, or times, that the child is not enrolled in the Special Day Class (SDC)..

  3. Can a child who is enrolled in a California State Preschool Program (CSPP) receive speech services during their certified hours? (Added January 2024)

    Yes.

Funding

  1. Do the contractor expenses for children with exceptional needs need to be identified separately?
    No, expenses for children with exceptional needs and children with severe disabilities do not have to be identified separately. All expenses related to California State Preschool Program (CSPP) should be reported as usual.
  2. Is the set aside guaranteed funding?

    According to Management Bulletin 23-02, based on the way the set aside works, the contractor is guaranteed funding for the set-aside and does not need to earn the set aside in the same way it needs to earn the rest of its contract. However, if the set aside is not filled with children with exceptional needs, then the contractor is required to do community outreach to special education partners. Beginning in 2026, contractors not filling the set-aside can apply for a waiver. The California Department of Education (CDE) will be releasing additional information on the waiver as that date approaches.

  3. Can contractors retroactively report the child days of enrollment within the exceptional needs adjustment factor category for a child with exceptional needs for previous months if we found out or were given a copy of an active Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the child is receiving early intervention services or appropriate special education after the child was already enrolled?

    Yes, a contractor may revise their Enrollment, Attendance and Fiscal reports to report the child days of enrollment within the applicable exceptional needs or severely disabled adjustment factor categories during the time the child was enrolled that corresponds with the active Indivdualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) and was receiving early intervention services or appropriate special education.

  4. What is the service level exemption credit?
    A service-level exemption allows the contractor to be reimbursed for identified expenses without the required enrollment to earn it. Contractors who are not fully earning the amount set aside to serve children with exceptional needs will receive a service-level exemption credit. This effectively allows the California Department of Education (CDE) to reimburse the contractor fully for the amount identified to serve children with disabilities, as required by Education Code sections 8208(c)(2)(B) and (d)(2)(B)(ii).

Income and Family Fees

  1. Does a family with a child with exceptional needs still need to provide income (self-certification of income)?

    Yes, all families qualifying for California State Preschool Program (CSPP) services under the eligibility category of having a child with exceptional needs, must provide a self-certification of their income for the purposes of following enrollment priorities and for full-day CSPP assessment of a family fee. Without this income information, a family cannot enroll in CSPP.

  2. When enrolling in the California State Preschool Program (CSPP), can the parent submit documentation of income instead of providing a self-certification of income if they have children with exceptional needs?

    Yes, families with multiple children may find this useful. For example, when one child is a child with exceptional needs and a second child does not have exceptional needs, families may use the income documentation they are already required to provide for the second child for the child with exceptional needs as well. Contractors cannot require the parent to provide anything more than a self-certification of income for children with exceptional needs.

  3. What if a parent refuses to provide information on their income?
    A family cannot enroll a child with exceptional needs in the California State Preschool Program (CSPP) without providing the contractor with information about their family’s income.
  4. What is the family fee if the family is over income?

    Pursuant to 5 California Code of Regulations (CCR) 17734(k), families whose incomes are higher than the maximum income for their family size represented on the annual family fee schedule shall be charged the highest fee rate for their family size. However, for children with exceptional needs who are placed in the California State Preschool Program (CSPP) pursuant to an Individualized Education Program (IEP), no fees shall be collected from the family to ensure children with disabilities are provided a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Any family fee shall be paid by the local educational agency (LEA) placing the child with exceptional needs in the CSPP because the LEA placing the student with disabilities in the CSPP is responsible for providing the student with disabilities with a FAPE.

  5. How do we assess fees for over-income families with an Individualized Education Program (IEP)? (Added January 2024)

    Families whose incomes are higher than the maximum income for their family size represented on the annual family fee schedule shall be assessed the highest fee rate for their family size.

  6. If the family is enrolled in a full-day, full-year program, are school districts responsible for the summer month fees (June, July, possibly August)? (Added January 2024)

    Extended school year services must be provided only if a child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team determines, on an individual basis, that the services are necessary for the provision of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to the child. The local educational agency (LEA) is responsible for the provisions of FAPE.

Set Aside

  1. What is the set aside? (Updated)

    Pursuant to Education Code (EC) sections 8208(c)(1) and (d)(2)(A), a percentage of the contractor’s funded enrollment must be set aside specifically to allow children with exceptional needs, including children with severe disabilities, to be enrolled.

    The set aside for children with exceptional needs began in fiscal year (FY) 2022–23 and increases incrementally in FY 2025–26, and again in FY 2026–27 as depicted in the table below.

    Fiscal Year Set Aside Percentage
    2022–23 5%
    2025–26 7.5%
    2026–27 and beyond 10%
  2. Which children count towards the set aside?

    Children with active Individualized Family Service Plans (IFSPs) or Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) who are receiving early intervention services or appropriate special education count towards the set aside. Contractors should be marking "Yes" for the "Child has an IEP field" in the monthly CDD-801A report for children and documenting the child on their fiscal reports to be counted towards the set aside.

  3. Does a child who is referred for a special education assessment by the California State Preschool Program (CSPP) contractor count towards the set aside?

    A child who is already enrolled in the California State Preschool Program (CSPP) (under another eligibility category) may be referred by a CSPP contractor to the local educational agency (LEA) for an assessment to determine whether the child is eligible for early intervention services or appropriate special education. For a child under three years of age, the child does not count toward the set aside unless the child has been determined to be eligible for early intervention services, has an active Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and is receiving early intervention services. For a child three to six years of age, the child does not count toward the set aside unless the child has been determined to be eligible for special education and related services, has an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) and is receiving early intervention services or appropriate special education. As a note, children enrolled in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) or kindergarten can enroll in part-day CSPP for extended learning and care.

  4. Should contractors track referrals made to a local educational agency (LEA) for special education assessment?

    Yes, contractors must record the number of referrals made to local educational agencies (LEAs) for special education assessment and must also attempt to track the status of such referrals. The California Department of Education (CDE) will request this information in a survey starting in September 2023.

  5. If a child has an active Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) that only provides speech services, can that child count in the set aside?

    Yes.

  6. Can children enrolled in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and part-day California State Preschool Program (CSPP) for extended learning and care count towards the set aside if the child has an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) and is receiving appropriate special education?

    Yes, children enrolled in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and the California State Preschool Program (CSPP), for the purposes of extended learning and care, who have an active Individualized Education Program (IEP) and are receiving appropriate special education count in the set aside. Children enrolled in TK who have an active IEP and are receiving appropriate special education but are not enrolled in CSPP extended learning and care, do not count towards the set aside for CSPP.

  7. What does funded enrollment mean?

    A contractor’s funded enrollment may be different from licensed capacity. Funded enrollment is defined in Education Code (EC) Section 8205(ae) as the number of subsidized children funded to be enrolled, based on the maximum reimbursable amount (MRA), contract rate, inclusive of any adjustment factors, and approved program calendar, by a California State Preschool Program (CSPP) contractor. Contractors can calculate the approximate funded enrollment by dividing the MRA by the service county full-day rate, adjusted by the average adjustment factor, divided by the minimum days of operation, as provided in the annual contract.

  8. Is the set aside per contract, per site, or per classroom?

    The set aside is per contract. Contractors must make every effort to enroll children with exceptional needs evenly throughout their program, throughout all contracted counties, sites, and classrooms. Concentrating enrollment for children with exceptional needs in specific counties, sites, or classrooms is not aligned with the intent of the new requirement to serve a certain percentage of children with exceptional needs in the California State Preschool Program (CSPP).

  9. How do we report whether we are meeting the set aside?

    There will be an annual survey to collect data related to children with exceptional needs. For 2022–23, the survey will be released by September 1, 2023, and due by September 30, 2023. For more information, please visit the California Department of Education (CDE) Inclusive Early Education Resources web page.

  10. As a contractor, if we cannot find children with exceptional needs to enroll in the set aside, can we enroll other children without exceptional needs from the waiting list within the set aside?
    No, only children with exceptional needs may be enrolled in the set aside, even if that means that those slots are held and not filled during the program year. Contractors not filling the set aside must conduct community outreach to special education partners to enroll children with exceptional needs into their programs.
  11. What are the allowable uses for the set aside funds? (Added January 2024)

    The set aside funds are regular California State Preschool Program (CSPP) contract funds and can be used on any allowable program expense. The California Department of Education (CDE) encourages programs to spend these funds on activities to further support inclusion. Some examples are adaptive equipment, additional staff, and professional development. Programs should ensure they are obtaining an Equipment Purchase Approval from their Program Quality Implementation (PQI) Consultant if the purchase exceeds the programs’ threshold, or the threshold stated in annual California State Preschool Program Contract Terms and Conditions.

Monitoring the Set Aside

  1. What happens if a California State Preschool Program (CSPP) was fully enrolled before July 1, 2022, and did not set aside five percent? What is the procedure for this scenario?

    For 2022–23, if a contractor did not set aside and reserve the five percent of funded enrollment for children with exceptional needs (for example, the program was fully enrolled prior to July 1, 2022), the currently enrolled children should not be disenrolled. After counting children with exceptional needs that are already enrolled, as children leave the program, the contractor must begin reserving spaces for children with exceptional needs, until five percent of funded enrollment is set aside.

  2. What can California State Preschool Program (CSPP) contractors do if they are having trouble locating children with exceptional needs to enroll in the set aside?

    Contractors not filling the enrollment requirement set aside must conduct community outreach to special education partners in an effort to enroll additional children with exceptional needs into their programs. The California Department of Education (CDE) will also provide technical assistance for contractors not meeting the set aside. Below are websites to direct contractors to the local organization in their area:

Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA)

  1. How do California State Preschool Program (CSPP) contractors find resources for working with children with exceptional needs?

    A list of resources to support inclusive policies and practices for early care and education can be found at the California Department of Education (CDE) Inclusive Early Education Resources web page. The CDE will be updating this web page as additional resources become available.

  2. How do California State Preschool Program (CSPP) contractors find children with exceptional needs to enroll?

    Contractors should partner with at least all of the following organizations at the local level. Below are websites to direct contractors to the local organization in their area:

  3. When will California State Preschool Program (CSPP) contractors be able to apply for a waiver if they are not able to meet the set aside?

    The waiver process will not go into effect until July 2026. Before then, contractors will have time to access the necessary technical assistance to assist them in efforts to meet the set aside and will not be penalized if they do not. The California Department of Education (CDE) regional Program Quality Implementation (PQI) consultants will monitor contractors in meeting the set aside requirements and will be communicating with contractors not making progress.

Child Development Management Information System (CDMIS)

  1. If an over-income child, who was enrolled in California State Preschool Program (CSPP) with an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP), no longer qualifies for special education services, how is that reported on the Child Development Management Information System (CDMIS)? (Added January 2024)

    If a family’s income was determined to be over income limitations at the last certification but enrolled in California State Preschool Program (CSPP) pursuant to the child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) status, and mid-certification period, the child no longer qualifies for special education services, please contact the Child Development Management Information System (CDMIS) Support Team directly at CDMIS@cde.ca.gov with this specific scenario for instructions on how to proceed with reporting this family in your CDD-801A report.

    As a reminder, Management Bulletin 23-02 states, “If a child’s status of being a child with exceptional needs changes during their 24-month eligibility period, the family is not required to provide a contractor with notice of the change for purposes of maintaining eligibility or recertifying early.”

Questions:   Nadia Kersey | NKersey@cde.ca.gov
Last Reviewed: Friday, January 12, 2024
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