CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia’s state-funded prekindergarten program has earned the state high marks in a national report by Pre-K Now.
The annual Pew report “Votes Count” cited West Virginia’s Universal Pre-K Program as an example of “smart, research-based policy and strong, sustained commitments.” The report evaluates state budgets to determine which legislatures count voluntary, high-quality pre-k among their top education reform strategies.
“The steady progress is due in large part to three vital priorities state leaders set: high quality; reliable, secure funding; and support for community-based providers, all of which helped sustain public and political support,” the report said.
West Virginia passed legislation 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 will be in collaborative settings with Head Start, child care and private programs. The program enrolled about 51 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds in 2009, and is on pace to serve about 60 percent, or about 15,550 children, in 2010-2011.
About 9 percent of the state’s 3-year-olds, mainly special needs children, also are served through the program. State funding is made available through the school funding formula is projected to increase by about $3.4 million to $80 million, according to the report.
“The Legislature’s support for continued investment shows that West Virginia’s leaders understand the importance of investing in programs with proven results even during tough economic times,” said Clayton Burch, assistant director of school readiness for the state Department of Education.
Research shows that high-quality pre-K can help improve the educational success of all children, decrease dropout rates, crime and delinquency, and improve economic productivity and health. Research also shows that that quality early learning results in savings to states for every dollar invested. Children who complete quality pre-k programs are more academically and socially prepared when they enter school, less likely to be held back or need special education services, and more likely to complete high school and contribute to their community as adults.
Such research contributed to the state Board of Education’s decision in 2009 to approve new regulations requiring all pre-K programs provide at least one meal daily, and, beginning in 2013, mandating that all new teachers in community-based programs have at least a bachelor’s degree.
For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.
--The West Virginia Board of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) are committed to ensuring all students in the state are college and career ready when they graduate from a public school. What West Virginia students are learning in school exceeds national and international standards. Through the WVDE’s 21st century learning plan called “Global21: Students deserve it. The world demands it.,” West Virginia is seeing better student performance on the West Virginia Educational Standards Test 2 (WESTEST2); the SAT and the ACT college entrance exams; the job skills assessment called Work Keys given to career and technical education students; and in a high school graduation rate that exceeds the national average.
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