Governor John Bel Edwards made a campaign stop in Lake Charles on Tuesday as part of his statewide election tour week. Local educators and public officials rallied at Luna Bar and Grill as he laid out his plans for continued investment in public education and continued prosperity.
"It's about leadership. It's about people over politics and how important it is to pay that mortgage and get that health care," he said referencing the financial difficulties public educators faced for 10 years without a raise. Most recently, in addition to teacher raises, Edwards said the state has seen a $500 million revenue surplus, record low unemployment and record high personal income.
"If we were doing better but not making critical investments it wouldn't be worthwhile," he added noting the state's targeted efforts to increase public education funding through a $39 million Minimum Foundation Program allotment, $20 million towards early childhood education and a new investment in higher education.
"If we want economic development, we have to have an educated, skilled workforce. You can't get that without investing in our colleges and universities," he said.
As part of his second term, Edwards said he plans to continue moving teaching pay towards the Southern regional average through budget allotments and inflationary increases "depending on what the revenue forecast looks like."
Dedicated funding of early childhood education will be his "number one priority for new education investment," he said. "That is the most important thing we can do. We have too many kids starting school and they're not ready to learn. This will allow more of them to start school ready to learn with their peers and we will close the achievement gap and produce better educational outcome."
He praised the work of McNeese State University and Sowela Technical Community college but said continuous funding of the most recent new investment is higher education is a top priority for his next term. "They do a great job but they are way more resource constrained than they ought to be."
In light of President Donald Trump's upcoming visit to Lake Charles, Edwards said he hopes citizens will take note of his bi-partisan efforts to improve Louisiana. "As your governor, I have never issued a statement. I have never taken a policy position. I have never appealed just to one segment of our population. That's wrong. That's s not the way you get business done."
Regarding party rhetoric and divisiveness, he said the Capitol could learn from the last four year of Louisiana's politics. "I hope we will reject this idea that we need to become more like Washington. In fact, Washington would do better to draw some inspiration from the great state of Louisiana."
Election day is Oct. 12.