In 2022, West Virginia introduced its Universal Pre-K Program (UPK). It is now available in all 55 counties for all 4-year-olds, and for some 3-year-olds with special needs. Because of a lack of space for pre-K classrooms, it took about a decade after its founding for the program to attain the facilities necessary to meet the capacity needs of the state’s pre-K-aged children. The state provides a minimum of 25 hours of care per week, 4 days per week. The UPK program is a voluntary, mixed-delivery model provided through a combination of public, private, Head Start, and community-based programs. As of 2022, 63% of West Virginia’s population of 4-year-olds was enrolled in UPK settings statewide. Though the state has made some efforts to expand slots for 3-year-olds, just 6% of this age group is served by public pre-K slots.
West Virginia Department of Education. (2019). West Virginia Universal Pre-K Guidebook.
National Institute for Early Education Research. (2023). West Virginia.
Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. (2017). West Virginia Universal Pre-K.
Connections to Key Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) Findings:
Learn More about ELS@H Findings
High-quality, affordable early education and care supports children’s healthy development and allows families to work, engage in their own educational pursuits, and/or participate in other aspects of community life. To support children and families in these instrumental ways, research suggests there is a need to expand the availability of early education opportunities across the mixed-delivery system.
Findings from the Early Learning Study at Harvard (ELS@H) show:
- Families rely on a range of formal (e.g., Head Start, center-based care, public pre-K) and more informal (e.g., home-based, relative care) early education settings; when choosing a setting for their child, families balance many logistical constraints and personal preferences.
- But for many families – and especially low- and middle-income families – early education choices remain tightly constrained due to issues of affordability and supply.