School has started across Louisiana, and when students first walked into their new classrooms, chances are things looked pretty much the same as when they left last year. They would have to look behind the scenes to know exactly how much has changed since the Legislative session ended in June.
They may notice a few more four year olds on their campus this year, the result of a $26.5 million investment made to the LA4 program allowing every at-risk four-year-old a chance to start their education early.
Eighth graders probably don’t realize we are using a $15 million investment to substantially improve their high school experience, better preparing them for college or career.
But all students may notice their teachers smiling a bit more, knowing they are on par with their peers across the South after each received a $2,375 per year pay raise. And support workers can be proud of their raise as well.
When legislators left Baton Rouge this summer, they joined me in making education from Pre-K to Higher Education a priority, with a bold investment to the tune of nearly $900 million. We increased Louisiana’s K-12 Minimum Foundation Program (MFP), the program used to fund every school in the state. This year, our schools will see an additional $198 million.
We also fully funded the higher education formula for the first time in more than 25 years for our state’s colleges and universities and made targeted investments in our community and technical college system.
One of our largest challenges to hurricane recovery is a shortage of qualified workers.
This is not limited to hurricane damaged areas; we hear the cry from businesses around Louisiana that our schools simply aren’t producing enough graduates who can step into an entry-level job with little training and move up the ladder to success.
In response to that cry, our targeted education investments and renewed attention to our workforce training and preparation programs will ensure our people meet the employment demands of the future.
These are exciting times in Louisiana education. We have been recognized nationally for our reforms, including our Accountability Program, our Teacher Quality Programs and LA4. Now we must build on our reforms and move student achievement to the next level.
This was my goal in making the 2007 Legislative Session the “Education Session.” Education is poverty’s mortal enemy, and today we declare war by putting education first.
The students we are educating now will soon take their place in the working world.
I want our homegrown workforce to use their knowledge and skills here, making Louisiana a better state.
School is back in session, and with it continues our hope for the future.