Dear Fellow West Virginians,
Recognizing the importance of the earliest years of life, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin created the West Virginia Early Childhood Planning Task Force in May 2013. The Task Force is charged with creating a development plan for the state’s early childhood system. The plan will specify the components, priorities and costs of such a system and strategies for its implementation and governance.
This summary highlights key findings and recommendations from the first phase of our work. The complete report, which will serve as the foundation of the development plan, is available here.
The work of the Task Force has been guided by these questions: What do we need to do, prenatally to age five, to achieve optimal outcomes for West Virginia’s children? What do parents, teachers, social workers, health care providers and others say is most important to child development and wellbeing? What programs and practices have been shown to be most effective? How can we make quality services more accessible to families throughout the state? What will this cost, and how will we pay for it? And if we can’t do everything at once, where should we begin?
We have learned a great deal from the creation of West Virginia Pre-K for four-year-olds, now a nationally recognized model. One of the lessons is that we need at least a ten-year window to implement bold ideas. Some of the Task Force recommendations will take a decade or more to fully realize. Others support actions that can be taken immediately to improve outcomes for our youngest children and their families.
The Task Force is partnering with the state’s Early Childhood Advisory Council in this effort. We are grateful to the more than 1,200 West Virginians who participated in our study groups, community forums, stakeholder discussions and surveys. We appreciate the invaluable research assistance we received from the state’s early childhood programs, Collective Impact, LLC, West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, Tonkin Management Group, Barbara Gebhard at ZERO TO THREE, and Dr. Sharon Lynn Kagan at Columbia and Yale Universities. And we thank the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and other funders of this project for their vision, resources and commitment to young children.
Robert S. Kiss, Chairperson
Julie Pratt, Project Director
West Virginia Early Childhood Planning Task Force