W.Va. Counties Well On the Way to Universal Preschool

July 09, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Five West Virginia counties have implemented universal prekindergarten programs and 50 others are well on their way to reaching the goal by 2012, the state Board of Education learned Thursday.

“Educational and political leaders across West Virginia have made early childhood education a priority,” said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “They know it’s a good investment. In fact, Marshall University researchers calculated that for every $1 West Virginia spends on good early childhood development, the state saves $5.20.”  

West Virginia has been recognized nationally for a progressive state law that requires universal preschool be available to all of the state’s 4-year-olds by the 2012-2013 school year. Half of the programs are in collaborative settings with Head Start, child care and private programs. State code requires counties to submit a plan to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the West Virginia Board of Education every two years outlining progress. The board approved the plans at its July meeting.

West Virginia also has been singled out for providing better access to preschool programs and dedicating more dollars to the effort than most other states in the country.  Last year, the West Virginia Universal Pre-K program enrolled 43 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds and provided $4,793 per child enrolled.

Research also shows that high quality preschool improves high school graduation and college attendance rates, employment and earnings and lessens future crime and delinquency. It also helps fight unhealthy behaviors like smoking and drug use.  

For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.