By Peggy Barmore, The Hechinger Report, July 8, 2019.
LEWISBURG, W.Va. — Shenandoah Cochran, 34, greeted the two teachers at the front door of her elevated house in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, like family friends. Her youngest children, 5-year-old Daniel Pearson and Shenabelle Pearson, 3, abandoned a late-morning snack of fresh-sliced strawberries and mandarin orange pieces to join the trio of adults at the door.
“He’s been asking when you all were going to get here,” Cochran said as Daniel tugged at her hands eager to show his preschool teachers his Batmobile bed and miniature car collection.
Unlike most states, West Virginia offers free, universal preschool to all 20,000 of its 4-year-olds, as well as to 3-year-olds with special needs. Experts here say the effort to offer every child in the state a high-quality preschool spot has taken lots of time and money — almost 20 years so far and $98 million in state spending in 2018 — to get right.