CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is serving as a model for other states when it comes to preschool programs.
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), the Mountain State is ranked #6 nationally for pre-kindergarten enrollments among four-year-olds and #8 nationally for enrollments among three-year-olds.
“We see states that aren’t doing this and it’s great for West Virginia to be successful,” said Christine Campbell, president of the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers. To get to this point, “It’s been a long, ongoing process and the commitment and collaboration between the Legislature and the state board and county boards has really made this happen,” she said.
West Virginia’s universal pre-K program continues to meet eight of ten quality benchmarks the NIEER established and, according to the organization’s latest report, took additional steps forward when both pre-K instructional days per year along with instructional hours per week were added to during the 2012-2013 school year.
In all, records showed 62 percent of West Virginia’s four-year-olds are enrolled in preschool while the enrollment number is around nine percent for three-year-olds.
Nationally, the recession has hit preschool programs hard. The total state preschool enrollment declined by 4,000 students, across the country, during the 2012-2013 school year as more than half of the states with the programs made funding cuts attributed to the ongoing effects of the recession.
Forty states and the District of Columbia currently offer universal preschool programs.
In West Virginia, Campbell said state budget reductions in recent years have had little effect on the pre-kindergarten programs in West Virginia because they’re part of the school aid formula. However, Campbell admitted early childhood literacy efforts have taken a hit, though some of the reductions to funding were later restored.
“I think that’s why we have been so successful is because I believe that the Legislature and the public school system and private daycare facilities are committed to making sure that all children have access to quality education,” Campbell said.
The National Institute for Early Education Research is a non-partisan organization based at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education. It supports early childhood education policy through independent research.