Blanco’s visit stresses education, health care

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2005

VIDALIA &045;&045; Education and health care funding, along with economic development, are among the most important items on Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s agenda, she told community leaders Thursday at the end of an economic development conference in Vidalia.

&uot;I call CEOs across the country on a regular basis, and they always talk about education,&uot; she said. &uot;In the South we now understand the importance of excellence in education. We’re all working so hard to catch up.&uot;

Education goes hand-in-hand with economic development, Blanco said.

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&uot;I think it’s important that every person who wants to work have a good education system,&uot; she said.

Louisiana has made strides in improving education, ranking first in a recent survey of states that are striving toward teacher excellence and eighth in the number of nationally board certified teachers, Blanco said.

Blanco is seeking a pay raise for teachers this year. She’s also asked that the only program that see any growth in its budget this year is the pre-kindergarten program, which would get an additional $20 million under her budget.

&uot;In today’s world, we know we have to start children earlier,&uot; she said.

If children are not educated properly, economic development efforts will not be worth much, Blanco said.

&uot;For every child that leaves school, if they have not gotten strong enough tools for the workplace, we have sentenced them to poverty,&uot; Blanco said. &uot;That’s a very sobering thought.&uot;

Improving health care will also help the economy, the governor said.

&uot;I always say, ‘Sick parents can’t earn, and sick children can’t learn,’&uot; she said.

But the state must also look for economical ways to improve healthcare. One of those is to encourage people to get home care before entering nursing homes, because nursing home stays are so expensive.

Blanco also said she wants to recruit and give incentives to companies that will provide health benefits and good pay.

&uot;To ease poverty, we have to make healthcare more effective and affordable, we have to improve education, and we have to grow jobs,&uot; Blanco said.

After her speech, Blanco attended the ground-breaking for the new conference center in Vidalia and also toured the Riverpark Medical Center, located along the riverfront.