CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia chalked up one of the top 10 spots for state preschool education, according to the annual survey of state-funded preschool programs released on Tuesday.
“It is evident that West Virginia understands the importance of early education,” Gov. Joe Manchin said. “Our ultimate goal is to provide high quality, nutritional pre-K to all children in the state because we know that early learning and development is paramount to their future success.”
The State of Preschool 2009 showed that West Virginia ranked fifth nationally for enrollment and adequately funded its program, coming in at 13th for spending per child. The per-child expenditure in West Virginia is approximately $8,700. In addition, West Virginia met seven of 10 quality standards benchmarks.
“This report solidifies that West Virginia is moving in the right direction,” West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine said. “Research shows that high-quality pre-K can help improve the educational success of all children. Pre-K also can decrease dropout rates, crime and delinquency, and improve economic productivity and health.”
Nationally, the report showed that the average amount states spent per child, when adjusted for inflation, declined from $4,179 to $4,143 in 2009, ending an upward trend. Real spending per child declined in 24 of 38 states with programs.
Total enrollment and spending increased, but not in every state. In nine states enrollment actually declined and 12 states provided no state pre-K for their children. Other key findings showed modest growth in some areas and vast discrepancies between states:
- Enrollment nationally increased by more than 81,000. More than 1.2 million children attended state-funded preschool education, 1 million at age 4.
- Total funding for state pre-K rose to more than $5 billion, state funding increase of $446 million, about half the increase of the previous year.
- Twenty-three of 38 states with state-funded preschool failed to fully meet the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) benchmarks for teacher qualifications and 26 failed to meet the benchmark for assistant teacher qualifications.
- Programs in seven states met fewer than half the quality standards benchmarks.
- Oklahoma remained the only state where almost every child had the opportunity to attend a quality preschool at age 4. The other top 10 states were Arkansas, West Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, Louisiana and Tennessee.
“With more families facing economic hardship, publicly supported preschool is more important than ever,” said W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University and the report’s author.
Barnett cited new research published in the journal Child Development showing that low family income has disproportionately more negative effects on preschool-age children than on older children and adolescents. Those effects include higher school dropout rates, lower income as adults and greater adult health problems.
“We need to get the recession babies on a progression path so they don’t carry the scars for a lifetime,” Barnett said.
He called on the federal government to place greater emphasis on providing aid to states for educationally effective pre-K programs.
“As pure economic stimulus it is hard to beat pre-K programs,” Barnett said. “Pre-K is a high-return investment in our children’s future that will help pay for the deficits we run now. In the meantime, it generates jobs in local communities, with virtually none of the money spent on imported goods or services.
“The alternative of cheap child care with low standards may reach more families, but it is bad policy, doing little to improve child development or the quality of our future work force.”
For more information, contact the WVDE Communications Office at 304-558-2699.
“Early education is close to my heart and that is why I have consistently fought for funding and implementation during my time in the state legislature,” West Virginia Senate Education Committee Chair Bob Plymale said. “Our young students deserve to be exposed to rich educational opportunities so that they excel in later years.”
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