LAKE CHARLES—Three of seven candidates running for the office of governor spoke Thursday morning to Louisiana School Board Association members about their views on public education. A fourth candidate appeared via video (Landry). The candidates — state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, Attorney General Jeff Landry, attorney Hunter Lundy and state Rep. Richard Nelson — appeared during the association’s annual convention, held this year at Golden Nugget Casino Resort.
“People ask me all the time, ‘Why are you running?’ Well, our two sons went to out-of-state colleges, they’re working for companies out of state and they will probably never move back to Louisiana because there weren’t opportunities here for them,” Hewitt said. “What I want is a Louisiana where our families want to work here, and live here and retire here. Our sons were born and raised here and it breaks my heart that there aren’t opportunities here for them in Louisiana. As governor, I’m going to change that.”
The Lake Charles native and Barbe High School graduate said she has five areas she wants to focus on if elected governor — creating a world-class education system rich in technology to build “the workforce of tomorrow”; growing the economy with strong infrastructure and a tax system that “respects your hard-earned tax dollars”; affordable and reliable insurance and energy; safer neighborhoods and communities; and protecting personal freedoms. Hewitt said Senate Bill 222, which she sponsored, passed two years ago and goes into effect next year.
“This bill establishes for the first time in state history a uniform way of reporting how well students are reading,” she said. “We’re going to be checking that three times a year and there will be processes in place and opportunities for parents to know how well their children are reading. We are also teaching students who are studying higher education in higher education institutions the science of reading so they are ready to hit the ground running when they come into your school systems. These are all things are actually happening.” Hewitt said by the end of her first term as governor, all kindergarten through third grade students will be reading.
She also vowed to bring computer science courses to every grade level to get Louisiana students ready for the global economy. “Louisiana students are getting left behind,” she said. “Louisiana is 49th in the percentage of high schools offering a computer science class. To show you how much of an opportunity we are missing, last year in Louisiana we had 5,441 job openings per month in the computer field, and we only had 568 graduates in computer science. We have tremendous opportunities and yet we’re not filling the pipeline.” Hewitt also said she supports education savings accounts. “I am an advocate for public schools; I’m a product of public schools, my kids are, my mom was a teacher. That’s always where my priority is going to be,” she said. “But for those children that do not succeed in a public school environment, I do believe we should give them options. It’s important to give parents choices, and parents options.”