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Right and Smart

Right and Smart Campaign



Imagine West Virginia commenced this policy development work in July 2008 based on the board’s recognition that West Virginia has made notable strides in recent years to advance its early child framework. This call to action urges a keener focus on the continuance of and investment in this progress. Focusing resources on early childhood policies and programs – specifically for the birth-to-3 age group – not only will produce a healthier population but will offer economic benefits to West Virginia in the form of a healthier, more competitive 21st century workforce.


Press Releases and Reports


Guiding Principle Investigator(s)

Imagine West Virginia wishes to thank Dr. Calvin Kent, Vice President for Business and Research at Marshall University, and Ms. Barbara Gebhard, Project Director of State Policy Initiatives, ZERO TO THREE: Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, for playing uniquely prominent roles in fostering our knowledge and thinking on early child policies and investment opportunities. Profiles for both Dr. Kent and Ms. Gebhard are referenced below.

Calvin KentDr. Calvin “Cal” Kent serves as Vice President for Business and Economic Research at the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), Marshall University, Huntington, WV. Before assuming his current position, he was Vice President for Technology Commercialization and began the Institute for Development of Entrepreneurial Advances (IDEA) that began the commercialization of science and technology at Marshall University. He also served as Dean and Distinguished Professor at the Lewis College of Business for ten years. During that time, the business school received international accreditation placing it among the top 20 percent of the nation’s business programs. Cal came to Marshall University from Washington, D.C. where he was appointed by President Bush and unanimously confirmed by the Senate as Administrator of the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy. In addition to the extensive background in energy, Dr. Kent is one of the nation’s best known economic and entrepreneurship educators.

Prior to his stay in Washington, he held the Herman Lay Chair in Private Enterprise at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he founded and directed the Center for Private Enterprise and the National Center for Entrepreneurship Education, and was an adjunct professor at Baylor’s School of Law. Recognized by 20 outstanding teacher awards, he was named one of the ten outstanding college teachers in Texas in 1988. The only individual twice elected President of the National Association of Economic Educators, he also holds the Freedom Foundation’s highest honor, the Leavey Award for Excellence in Private Enterprise Education, and the John Schramm Distinguished Service Award from the National Council on Economic Education.

Before his work at Baylor, he was Chief Economist to the South Dakota Legislative Research Council and Professor of Economics at the University of South Dakota. He initiated seven businesses and has consulted for over 100 corporations. He has lectured at 57 American universities and on campuses in 10 other nations.

He has been Mayor of Woodway, Texas and President of the Vermillion, South Dakota City Council. He currently serves on the Huntington, West Virginia City Council, sits on the Tri-State Airport Authority and Huntington Municipal Development Authority, and served as vice chair of the Governor’s Commission on Fair Taxation.

His undergraduate degree is from Baylor, his Ph.D. is from the University of Missouri-Columbia with post doctorate work at Virginia, Chicago, Rice, and Wichita State Universities. Listed in Who’s Who in America, he has written 18 books and over 150 articles. He and his wife, Nita Sue, have two grown daughters, three grandsons and two granddaughters.


Barbara GebhardMs. Barbara Gebhard is the Project Director of State Policy Initiatives at ZERO TO THREE:  National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families.  As part of the organization’s Policy Center, she leads ZERO TO THREE’s efforts to advance state policy priorities and support states in the development of policies and systems to meet the needs of infants and toddlers.  She oversees the development of effective materials, tools, and technical assistance for state policymakers.  Ms. Gebhard directed ZERO TO THREE’s sponsorship of three national meetings in 2006-07:  Building Systems for Babies, Early Childhood System Building in Communities, and Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health System Building in States.  She is co-leading the Creating Connections for Babies project working with six states in establishing services and policies focused on 0 to 3 year olds.  Through Barbara’s leadership, the Policy Center held four webinars for infant-toddler professionals in 2008.  She co-authored a paper in partnership with Pre-K Now, Common Vision, Different Paths:  Five States’ Journeys toward Comprehensive Prenatal-to-Five Systems.  She represents ZERO TO THREE on the Early Childhood Systems Working Group, a group of national organizations working to assist states in building systems for young children.

In her previous role as the director of the Build Initiative supported by the Early Childhood Funders’ Collaborative, Barbara worked with nine states building early learning systems.  She provided oversight for the initiative’s grant-making, technical assistance, communications, and evaluation.  She developed and implemented various learning community activities for representatives of the nine states, including annual national meetings of state teams; topical meetings on early childhood system governance and strategic communications; and frequent conference calls.  Ms. Gebhard co-authored a resource brief entitled Building an Early Learning System: The ABCs of Planning and Governance Structures.

For over a decade, Barbara was employed by the West Virginia Governor’s Cabinet on Children and Families, part of the Governor’s Office in West Virginia.  As Deputy Director, she was responsible for overseeing the Families First project (Safe and Stable Families Act), the Community-Based Family Resource and Support Program, and the Cabinet’s early care and education initiatives.  She also assisted in the training and technical assistance provided to local Family Resource Networks, which are coalitions working to improve services for children and families in their communities.  During Ms. Gebhard’s tenure, the Cabinet provided leadership in developing and implementing numerous early childhood initiatives.

Among Barbara’s previous positions are State Early Intervention Director and State Day Care Specialist in the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and Writer/Editor for Appalachia Educational Laboratory.  She holds a Master’s degree in Child Development and Family Relationships from Marshall University and a B.A. in Elementary Education from Georgetown College. 


Major West Virginia News

Since 2006, early childhood leaders, advocates and practitioners in West Virginia have worked together on plans to create a Child Care Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) in the state. A QRIS is designed to rate the quality of an early childhood program and to assist programs to improve their quality. To continue its advocacy of creating a QRIS system to serve the state’s children and families, Imagine West Virginia co-funded a study by the Marshall University Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) to present a comprehensive evaluation of the steps needed to fully implement the program and the associated costs. The report was prepared as required under legislation passed by the West Virginia Legislature in 2010 (SB 648), with financial contributions also being made by the Legislature and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. Click here to review CBER’s QRIS report.

  • In-Home Family Education Programs in West Virginia (Summer, 2011)

In July, 2011, Executive Director Ms. Laurie KcKeown of TEAM for West Virginia Children, Inc. gave a presentation to the West Virginia Legislative Children, Juveniles and Other Issues Committee regarding in-home family education programs in West Virginia. In-Home Family Education is a program that provides help to families with young children in their home. Parents can participate at no cost, and the staff will come to the home, or wherever the parent feels most comfortable. In-Home Family Education provides caring and supportive programs to families in almost half of all West Virginia counties. The goal is to improve child health, increase school readiness and give parents the information and support they need to make parenting decisions. According to several studies presented, In-Home Family Education programs have been proven to reduce child abuse by as much as 40 percent. $1.5 billion in federal funding will be allocated to these programs nationwide over the next five years. In 2010, West Virginia received almost $900,000 for its In-Home Family Education programs and are set to receive over $1 million next year. As of 2011, these programs operate in 23 West Virginia counties with current plans for implementation in five additional counties. The goal is for this program to eventually be available to every household that needs these services in West Virginia. Click here to review Ms. McKeown’s report.


The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) 2010 State Preschool Yearbook is the eighth in a series of annual reports profiling state-funded prekindergarten programs in the United States. This 2010 Yearbook presents data on state-funded prekindergarten during the 2009-2010 school year. The first report in this series focused on programs for the 2001-2002 school year and established a baseline against which to measure progress over nine years. Tracking these trends is essential, since changes in states' policies on preschool education will influence how successfully America's next generation will compete in the knowledge economy. According to the 2010 data, West Virginia enrolls a greater percentage of its four-year-olds in state-funded preschool than all but two other states. Click here to review the NIEER 2010 report.


Research, Resources and References




Letters of Support

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Policy Partners