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Rolling Out Universal Pre-K in West Virginia

This week, West Virginia's Beckley Register-Herald carried a story on the implementation of universal pre-K for 4-year-olds. Beckley is located in Raleigh County, near the southern end of the state. According to ePodunk, a web site started by journalists to offer quick access to community information, in 2000 Raleigh County's median household income was $28,181.

Despite the sputtering economy, both the state and the county are moving ahead with universal pre-K for four-year-olds. Last year West Virginia spent $120 million in federal, state and local funds on pre-K. An associate superintendent in Raleigh County interviewed for the story says every family that wanted a slot for its child got one this year. When the state passed a universal pre-K bill in 2002, the goal was to make it available to all 4-year-olds by 2012-13, so Raleigh County appears to be ahead of the curve.

The county started by focusing on Title I schools and funding half-day programs, then moving to full-day as more money became available. All 19 of the county's elementary schools offer pre-K, and funds also support Head Start and a YMCA-sponsored preschool program. Children who attend school-based pre-K programs can even ride the bus with the grade-schoolers to get there.

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