White holds forum at Sowela

By By Kara Carrier / American Press

State Education Superintendent John White hosted a public forum Thursday at Sowela Technical Community College to discuss

the final draft proposal for his Jump Start initiative.

Jump Start, according to an Education

Department news release, is a “new program for school districts,

colleges and businesses

to collaborate in providing career courses and workplace

experiences to high school students, certifying them for the career

fields most likely to lead to high-wage jobs.”

Many educators from Calcasieu and

surrounding parishes, and local industry professionals, attended the

forum to ask questions

and comment on the proposal. White will take the final draft of

the initiative to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary

Education on March 6.

During the forum, White said the

initiative is important because students, especially those who don’t

qualify for the TOPS

scholarship program for a four-year college, can earn credentials

that will assist them and give them headway in a community

college or help them be viable employees.

“If we are going to do that, we’ve got to bring industry in and have our community colleges at the table with our high schools

to provide those courses together as part of a regional team,” White said.

He said less than 20 percent of Louisiana high school students earn a four-year degree and that more than 27 percent of students

take longer than four years to complete high school.

“We’ve got to end the stigma against career education,” he said. “It’s a viable path to the middle class, and ending the stigma

is a necessary step.”

White said BESE will approve the proposal. If it does, school districts can start the program in the fall, he said.

“Southwest Louisiana is the heart of job growth, not just in Louisiana but also in the United States,” White said.

“The demand for jobs is overwhelming,

but these are not the jobs of our grandfathers and grandmothers; these

are technical,

sophisticated jobs. So the question that I see in front of us is

how equipped are our students, and if they are not, we are

missing an enormous opportunity for them and our state.”

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Online: www.louisianabelieves.com.