[StBernard] EDITORIAL: Blanco wants $600M for education

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Mon Mar 19 23:31:56 EDT 2007

EDITORIAL: Blanco wants $600M for education

Periodically, the press office will publish editorials and columns that feature Governor Blanco's work in various areas.

The Daily Advertiser (online)
<http://www.theadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070319/OPINION01/703190314/1014/OPINION> :
EDITORIAL: Blanco wants $600M for education
Published: March 19, 2007

Gov. Kathleen Blanco has proposed allocating $600 million to education next year. How much of her program will survive the session remains to be seen, but despite the expected battle between the administration and Republican lawmakers, it seems certain education will be exceptionally well-funded.

The governor's program includes a $100-per-child tax credit, raising teacher pay, redesigning high schools, increasing opportunities for at-risk children to attend pre-kindergarten classes and providing aid to low-income college students.

Blanco wants to raise teacher pay to the Southern average and fund colleges at the same level as peer institutions in the South.

Education officials say the program will help in the battle against poverty. Help is badly needed. According to the Council for a Better Louisiana, our poverty rate is still the second highest in the nation. The Louisiana Children in Poverty report also ranks us second in the nation, but the percentage of children living in poverty is higher than the overall rate. According to the report, 24.7 percent of the state's children were living at or below the poverty level at the time of the last federal census.

A 2004 Kids Count survey showed that almost a quarter of the families in the Acadiana region have incomes below the poverty line.

Is Blanco on the right path? The Southern Education Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting better education in the South, probably would say that she is. As we have reported previously, the Atlanta-based foundation says that in 2005, on average, each person in the state had almost $10,000 less income than the average American. "Over 60 percent of this gap in income can be attributed solely to Louisiana's lower levels of education," the report says.

The foundation contends that Louisiana can begin to move out of the bottom ranks in income and economic growth "only by increasing enrollment and graduation rates in high schools and colleges and by reducing gaps by race and income in education performance."

The Quality Counts 2007 report by Education Week magazine ranks Louisiana 49th in the nation in preparing our children to succeed in life. The ranking, according to the magazine, is based on "experiences during the preschool years and opportunities for continued education and training beyond high school."

Blanco's education initiative should not come as a surprise. In her campaign for governor, she listed quality public education as "the top priority that we as a state need to continue our economic growth." Education, she said, is the key to our economic wellbeing. "Our greatest challenge is to begin now and commit forever to connect education and the economy."

It will be interesting to see how things play out in the session. Louisiana has huge needs in numerous areas. Lawmakers have their own agendas. One thing is certain, however. The best escape route from poverty is through quality education.


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