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In California, students are not required to attend school until age 6. Still, there are many early educational opportunities, including three publicly-funded Pre-K options. 

These include:

  • The California State Preschool Program (CSPP)*: The CSPP is a needs-based program. It offers half-day and full-day preschool classes for children who meet its eligibility requirements. CSPP provides daily meals and snacks. It also provides parent education and referrals to health and social services.
  • Head Start*: Head Start is a federally-funded childcare program. It is for families that meet certain income thresholds. Head Start Preschools are for 3- and 4-year-olds. All Head Start programs provide education, meals, and health screenings. Head Start also connects eligible families with the resources they may need.
  • Transitional Kindergarten (TK): TK is for students whose birthdays fall at the end of the year. TK is for children who turn 5 years old between September 2 and December 2.
  • Migrant Child Care and Development: These programs provide child care services to families who work in the fishing or agriculture industries. Migrant child care and development programs use centers and family child care home networks run by public, private, and local educational agencies. These programs serve children from birth through 12 years of age and older children with exceptional needs. These programs provide an education that is culturally, linguistically, and developmentally appropriate for the children served. Visit the California Department of Social Services’ website for more information. 


Pre-Kindergarten Summer Programs

In addition to the above programs, some California school districts offer Pre-Kindergarten Summer programs. Any child who is eligible to start kindergarten during the school year is eligible to attend a Pre-K summer program.

Pre-K Age Eligibility

In California, December 1 is the cut-off date for age-eligibility. This means that students must be of-age on or before December 1 of the academic year to enroll in school. This includes:

  • California State Preschool Program (CSPP): Students must be three or four by December 1 to be eligible to attend a CSPP program. Priority is given to four-year olds. Children who turn three after December 1 may be eligible to participate. 
  • Head Start: Families who are eligible for Head Start may enroll their children as early as infancy and as late as age five.
  • Transitional Kindergarten (TK): Students who turn five years old between September 2 and December 2 are eligible to attend TK.
  • Pre-Kindergarten Summer Programs:  A child can join this program the summer before starting Kindergarten.  


*CSPP and Head Start are both needs-based programs. To find out if you are eligible for Head Start, contact your local Head Start agency. To find out if you are eligible for CSPP, contact your school district.



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Last updated on August 16, 2023
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