OEL News and FAQs

From the New York State Education Department Office of Early Learning 

December 2022

  • Collaborating with Community-Based Organizations
  • New Executive Director
  • PreK FAQs
  • Supporting Special Populations
  • Building Resilience Through Play
  • Helpful Resources/Professional Development
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Collaborating with Community-Based Organizations

Delivery of prekindergarten programs in New York State is unique since it utilizes a mixed delivery system. Partnerships exist between Head Start programs, Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and school districts to provide prekindergarten instruction to three- and four-year-old students. Please reach out to your OEL Liaison for technical assistance regarding the collaboration requirement.

Welcome to OEL

The Office of Early Learning welcomes Erik Sweet, the new Executive Director.

Erik looks forward to working closely with the OEL team to best support New York’s P-3 students.

Stay tuned to the Newsletter for more updates from the Office of Early Learning team on future initiatives.  

Collaboration and Competitive Process FAQs

Common questions and answers regarding Prekindergarten Collaboration and the Competitive Process

Q: What is an eligible agency? 

A: An "eligible agency," as defined in 8 NYCRR 151-1.2(b) is a provider of child care and early education, a day care provider, an early childhood program or center or community-based organization (CBO) including, but not limited to, an approved preschool special education program, Head Start, nursery school, library, or museum which meet the standards and requirements of Subpart 151-1. 

Q: Do eligible agencies have to be located within the school district’s boundaries? 

A: For the purpose of the NYS UPK program, it is allowable for participating school districts to contract with eligible early childhood providers physically located within or outside of the district’s geographic boundaries, assuming the process for establishing a collaboration is followed and the eligible agency is located in a contiguous district or otherwise transportation to and from the child’s home to the eligible agency does not impose a hardship for the child, the family, or the district. 

Q: How do we know what eligible agencies are in our school district’s boundaries? 

A list of licensed providers is available on the Office of Children and Family Services website. Districts can search for providers by school district boundaries. Districts must send out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to all eligible agencies located within their district boundaries. 


Q: What is the collaboration requirement for UPK and SUFDPK programs? 

A: Education Law 3602-e requires that districts use at least 10% of their total UPK allocation and SUFDPK grant, not just the budget or allocation payable, to contract with one or more eligible agencies for the provision of the instructional program for a specified number of enrolled children. Districts must undertake a competitive process as outlined in 8 NYCRR 151-1.6 in the selection of their contracted agencies. 

The 10% minimum set-aside is calculated from the maximum grant award and/or allocation – not from the district’s proposed budget. For example, if a district has been awarded $360,000, its minimum 10% set-aside is $36,000. If the district opts to spend only $200,000, its minimum 10% set-aside remains at $36,000 (not $20,000). 

Q: When is a school district eligible to submit a variance request for the 10% collaboration requirement? 

A: Districts cannot submit a variance request for the 10% collaboration requirement until after they have completed a required competitive RFP process for all eligible agencies within district boundaries annually.

A district can apply for a variance request for the 10% collaboration requirement for the current school year if: (1) no eligible agencies are willing to collaborate, (2) there are no eligible agencies located within the district’s boundaries, or (3) there is good cause for not contracting with any eligible agency who has submitted an RFP. Approval is not guaranteed. If approved, the variance is only in effect for the school year in which it was approved. 

Q: What constitutes a “good cause” reason for a district not to collaborate with an eligible agency that has submitted an RFP? 

A: There are several “good cause” reasons why a district can choose not to partner with an eligible agency that has submitted an RFP. Those “good cause” reasons include: (1) the eligible agency has health and safety violations, (2) on-site director(s) at the eligible agency are not willing to develop a 5-year plan towards obtaining early childhood education certification, (3) the district would have fiscal solvency issues due to the collaboration, (4) the eligible agency is a new provider without a record of program effectiveness or fiscal solvency, or (5) the eligible agency has continued to not meet the terms of prior contracts with the district. 

Q: Is there a set per-pupil rate that the district gives to eligible agencies? 

A: No. As part of the RFP process, any eligible agency that is interested in running a UPK program should be submitting to the district a budget of what it would cost to run a high-quality UPK program at the agency. 

Q: Am I required to give more than 10% of the UPK allocation to eligible agencies?  

A: No. A district is not required to go beyond the 10% minimum set-aside to partner with eligible agencies. However, the district should keep in mind that these are district children attending the programs and should be receiving the same high-quality UPK program regardless of whether they attend UPK in-district or at an eligible agency. 

Q: How do districts select collaborating agencies? 

A: Districts must select the eligible agencies with which they will collaborate through a competitive process. Section 151-1.6 of Commissioner’s Regulations explicitly describes the process for issuing an RFP as well as the criteria to consider for selecting which eligible agency or agencies will receive funds from the district to provide the UPK program. 

Q: Does a school district have to conduct a competitive process every year?


A: After the implementation of the initial competitive process and the selection of an eligible agency or agencies to provide the program, districts must develop a purchase of service contract with such agencies. Contracts may be of varying lengths depending on the arrangements established between the agency and the district. It is imperative the district’s attorney or legal team ensures the contract is valid and that districts have clauses for discontinuing or extending a contract. The Office of Early Learning has every right to ask the district for its contracts with eligible agencies. 


Q: We currently contract with six eligible agencies. This year the district is receiving increased funding for UPK. Do we have to issue the RFP for the additional funds? 

A: There is not a clear-cut answer to this question. While a district may be happy with its current providers, there also may be eligible agencies in the community that would like the opportunity to participate in the UPK program. In addition, the district should take into consideration the capacity of the current providers to serve additional UPK children and be in continued compliance with Commissioner’s Regulations 8 NYCRR 151-1. Districts should also consider other factors such as the ease with which families can use the current providers and whether there are unserved areas of the district. 


Supporting Special Populations

Resources are available to help support Emergent Multilingual Learners, Preschool Students with Disabilities, and McKinney-Vento Students.

NYSED also provides blueprints for Improving Results for Students with Diverse Needs and applicable regulations.

The Brain Architects: Building Resilience Through Play

From The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, this podcast explains the role of play in supporting resilience. Five experts share their ideas and personal stories about applying the science of play in homes, communities, and crisis environments around the world.

Podcast:Building Resilience Through Play

Helpful Resources/Professional Development:

Erik Sweet, Executive Director, Office of Early Learning

Lori Smart, Supervisor

Tanya Amodio-Kovacs, Samantha Chobot,

Carly Feldman, Eric Feml-Nelsen,

Jason Gish, Christine Lyons,

Brandon Orszulak, Tina Rose-Turriglio,

Michelle Sidoti, Zachary Snyder