“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. A study by Marshall University found 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. In 2009, preschool enrollment neared 14,000 children, about 72 percent of those eligible. About 70 percent 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.
Those counties that have met universal preschool status are: Braxton, Clay, Cabell, Harrison, Jackson, Lewis, Mineral, Pleasants, Randolph, Roane, Summers, Taylor, Tucker, Tyler and Wirt. All other counties submitted plans to enact universal preschool.
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, West Virginia spent about $70 million, not including federal and child care funding, on the universal pre-K program.
Research 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 such as smoking and drug use.
Also during its July meeting, board members voted to update the state preschool policy and place the proposed changes on a 30-day public comment period. The revisions would update the content standards and objectives and the learning criteria to better align them with 21st century updates to the K-12 curriculum as well as the Common Core State Standards initiative.
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