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Participation in Head Start programs   

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(a) Criteria for eligibility (1) The Secretary shall by regulation prescribe eligibility for the participation of persons in Head Start programs assisted under this subchapter. Except as provided in paragraph (2), such criteria may provide -

(A) that children from low-income families shall be eligible for participation in programs assisted under this subchapter if their families' incomes are below the poverty line, or if their families are eligible or, in the absence of child care, would potentially be eligible for public assistance; and (B) pursuant to such regulations as the Secretary shall prescribe, that -

(i) programs assisted under this subchapter may include, to a reasonable extent, participation of children in the area served who would benefit from such programs but whose families do not meet the low-income criteria prescribed pursuant to subparagraph (A); and (ii) a child who has been determined to meet the low-income criteria and who is participating in a Head Start program in a program year shall be considered to continue to meet the low-income criteria through the end of the succeeding program year.

In determining, for purposes of this paragraph, whether a child who has applied for enrollment in a Head Start program meets the low-income criteria, an entity may consider evidence of family income during the 12 months preceding the month in which the application is submitted, or during the calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the application is submitted, whichever more accurately reflects the needs of the family at the time of application.

(2) Whenever a Head Start program is operated in a community with a population of 1,000 or less individuals and -

(A) there is no other preschool program in the community; (B) the community is located in a medically underserved area, as designated by the Secretary pursuant to section 254c(b)(3)

(FOOTNOTE 1) of this title and is located in a health professional shortage area, as designated by the Secretary pursuant to section 254e(a)(1) of this title; (FOOTNOTE 1) See References in Text note below.

(C) the community is in a location which, by reason of remoteness, does not permit reasonable access to the types of services described in clauses (A) and (B); and (D) not less than 50 percent of the families to be served in the community are eligible under the eligibility criteria established by the Secretary under paragraph (1); the Head Start program in each such locality shall establish the criteria for eligibility, except that no child residing in such community whose family is eligible under such eligibility criteria shall, by virtue of such project's eligibility criteria, be denied an opportunity to participate in such program. During the period beginning on October 30, 1984, and ending on October 1, 1994, and unless specifically authorized in any statute of the United States enacted after October 30, 1984, the Secretary may not make any change in the method, as in effect on April 25, 1984, of calculating income used to prescribe eligibility for the participation of persons in the Head Start programs assisted under this subchapter if such change would result in any reduction in, or exclusion from, participation of persons in any of such programs.

(b) Establishment of fee schedule or charging of fees; payment by families willing and able to pay The Secretary shall not prescribe any fee schedule or otherwise provide for the charging of any fees for participation in Head Start programs, unless such fees are authorized by legislation hereafter enacted. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prevent the families of children who participate in Head Start programs and who are willing and able to pay the full cost of such participation from doing so. A Head Start agency that provides a Head Start program with full-working-day services in collaboration with other agencies or entities may collect a family copayment to support extended day services if a copayment is required in conjunction with the collaborative. The copayment charged to families receiving services through the Head Start program shall not exceed the copayment charged to families with similar incomes and circumstances who are receiving the services through participation in a program carried out by another agency or entity.

(c) Availability of more than one year of services; children eligible Each Head Start program operated in a community shall be permitted to provide more than 1 year of Head Start services to eligible children (age 3 to compulsory school attendance) in the State. Each Head Start program operated in a community shall be permitted to recruit and accept applications for enrollment of children throughout the year.

(d) Indian tribes (1) An Indian tribe that -

(A) operates a Head Start program; (B) enrolls as participants in the program all children in the community served by the tribe (including a community that is an off-reservation area, designated by an appropriate tribal government, in consultation with the Secretary) from families that meet the low-income criteria prescribed under subsection (a)(1)(A) of this section; and (C) has the resources to enroll additional children in the community who do not meet the low-income criteria; may enroll such additional children in a Head Start program, in accordance with this subsection, if the program predominantly serves children who meet the low-income criteria.

(2) The Indian tribe shall enroll the children in the Head Start program in accordance with such requirements as the Secretary may specify by regulation promulgated after consultation with Indian tribes.

(3) In providing services through a Head Start program to such children, the Indian tribe may not use funds that the Secretary has determined, in accordance with section 9835(g)(3) of this title, are to be used for expanding Head Start programs under this subchapter.

(Pub. L. 97-35, title VI, Sec. 645, Aug. 13, 1981, 95 Stat. 504; Pub. L. 98-558, title I, Sec. 105, Oct. 30, 1984, 98 Stat. 2879; Pub. L. 99-425, title I, Sec. 104, Sept. 30, 1986, 100 Stat. 966; Pub. L. 101-501, title I, Sec. 113, 114, Nov. 3, 1990, 104 Stat. 1231; Pub. L. 101-597, title IV, Sec. 401(e), Nov. 16, 1990, 104 Stat. 3035; Pub. L. 103-252, title I, Sec. 111, May 18, 1994, 108 Stat. 637; Pub. L. 105-285, title I, Sec. 112, Oct. 27, 1998, 112 Stat. 2718.)