- Childcare, early education, and K-12 programs vary by state.
Childcare and Early Education
- Head Start: Families can apply for a local Head Start program online (en Español) or by calling 1-866-763-6481. Children qualify automatically if their family is experiencing homelessness, receives food assistance (SNAP), receives financial assistance (TANF/SSI), or if they are a foster family. Programs include: Early Head Start (pregnancy, 0-2 years old), Head Start (3-5 years old), Migrant and Seasonal Head Start (pregnancy, 0-5 years old), and American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start (pregnancy, 0-5).
- Childcare: Families can apply for child care financial assistance through their state’s program (en Español). Military families who are on the waitlist for Military Child Care can apply for a fee assistance program offered by their Service.
- Home Visiting: Parents and guardians can look at the individual agencies that offer home visiting services and select the one that best addresses their needs.
Elementary and Secondary Education (K-12)
- School Lunch: Students qualify for free lunch if their household gets food assistance (SNAP), financial assistance (TANF), or tribal assistance (FDPIR); by meeting the requirements for their state’s National School Lunch Program; or by attending a school that is covered by the Community Eligibility Provision.
- Special Education: At no cost, a student with a disability can request an IEP or 504 Plan to make sure their school is meeting their unique needs.
University and Federal Student Loans
- Work Readiness: Job Corps provides a residential work readiness program for students (16-24 years old). Interested students can apply online (en Español).
- Immigration Status: Each state has a different policy on whether students without documentation can pay in-state tuition, receive financial aid. The Higher Ed Immigration Portal keeps an up-to-date list with state specifics.
- Federal Student Loans: Borrower payments resumed in October 2023. Older adults with federal student loan debt can use this practice tip to help plan for their repayments. Borrowers who work for the government or a not-for profit organization may be eligible for forgiveness under a special program called Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PLSF). PLSF has undergone recent rule changes. Under updated guidelines, student debt may be discharged through bankruptcy if certain conditions are met.
Spotlight on non-discrimination
Any school or or program that receives money from the ED cannot discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age.
- Sex: They must provide equal access to all education programs and activities, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. It also protects against sexual harassment and sexual violence.
- Language Access: They must offer language access assistance to all students with limited English proficiency and communicate in a language guardians understand.
- Immigration Status: They cannot deny access to students based on immigration status. In other words, students without documentation have a right to attend school.
- Disability: They must work to meet the needs of students with disabilities.
If a person believes they have been discriminated against and they share that with your care team, direct them to the Office for Civil Rights (en Español). This federal office enforces federal civil rights laws.
The Bottom Line
- Many childhood programs, K-12 schools, and higher education receive funding from their state, however, much of that funding originates with the federal government. As a result, care teams can affect change in education by advocating at any level – federal, state, or local. Care teams can also monitor the news on federal spending legislation.