April 18, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia’s Universal Pre-K Program once again ranks among the top in the nation, according to the 2017 Yearbook released today by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). NIEER recognizes West Virginia as one of “six states to watch” that have expressed the intention to provide universal pre-K, and one of three to have achieved that goal.

 The State of Preschool Yearbook is the only national report on state-funded preschool programs with detailed information on enrollment, funding, teacher qualifications and other policies related to quality. Though both enrollment and state funding numbers fell in West Virginia, the state continues to rank among the top, maintaining quality standards and broad access.

 “The work to support the success of all West Virginia students starts with policies that impact our youngest learners,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Paine. “The strength of our early learning programs is reflective of the collaboration with the Governor’s Office, state agencies like the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), and the legislature – all working toward the goal of providing high-quality preschool to children statewide. Ensuring that every child has access to high-quality preschool builds the foundation for success.”

 West Virginia has been recognized nationally for a progressive state law that required universal preschool to all of the state’s 4-year-olds. The West Virginia Universal Pre-K System provides prekindergarten programs in all 55 counties in the state. Public schools receive West Virginia Universal Pre-K funding directly, and a majority of programs partner with child care centers, private programs or Head Start agencies in order to meet demand. 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.

The West Virginia Universal Pre-K Program boasts a 76 percent participation rate based on 4-year-olds who go on to attend the state’s kindergarten program as 5-year-olds. West Virginia Universal Pre-K enrolled more than 16,000 children, which census data notes is 65 percent of 4-year olds and 11 percent of 3-year-olds in the state. Nationwide, state-funded preschool program enrollment continues to grow, serving more than 1.5 million children, however, there are still nearly 20 states that enroll less than 10 percent of their 4-year-olds.

“We are proud to provide strong prekindergarten programs in all 55 counties,” said Monica DellaMea, Executive Director of the Office of Early & Elementary Learning. “Over the years, West Virginia has increased the duration of the preschool program as well as number of instructional days to help ensure that students in the Mountain State are receiving the best start possible.”

 The full report can be accessed by visiting the NIEER website at http://nieer.org/.


The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) conducts academic research to inform policy supporting high-quality, early education for all young children. Such education promotes the physical, cognitive and social development needed for children to succeed in school and later life. NIEER provides independent, research-based analysis and technical assistance to policymakers, journalists, researchers, and educators.