Governor John Bel Edwards is hoping lawmakers will keep a commitment to greater fiscal stability and keep education and wage growth top priorities.

In his visit Monday to the Baton Rouge Press Club, he urged lawmakers not to veer away from his recommendations to invest in early childhood education along with pay hikes for teachers.

Edwards made his comments shortly after the House Republicans in the Appropriations Committee stripped funding for the pay raises and investment in early childhood education.

A portion of that money was restored through a plan to strip funds from the Medicaid program.

“I’m not sure why they would do that,” Edwards said. “I didn’t know education ceased to be a priority.”

He touted a 2023-24 budget that would include the largest-ever new investment in early childhood education in the state’s history.

Edwards said he considers added investment in early childhood a key to education to overall improvement to performance in the state’s K-12 public schools.

“It’s incredibly important,” he said. “I believe and the experts confirm it that f we want to change education and have better outcomes, it has to start in early childhood education, and we have to have more 1-, 2 -and 3-year old children in quality settings for early childhood education and sustain it for a generation -- and when we do, we will make a difference we’ve never been able to make before.”

The funding is urgent because the federal government next year will not give the state COVID stimulus money for early childhood education, Edward said.

The loss of money means the state needs to make its own allocation to ensure early childhood education does not lose ground.

He also urged lawmakers to approve his recommendation for a $3,000 per year teacher pay raise.

“The key ingredient is to have a professional, well-educated highly motivated teacher in the classroom today,” Edwards said. “Quite frankly, we do not enough teachers today, and too many leaving the profession and not enough entering colleges of education to go into the classroom.

“Look at what our neighboring states have done over the last years or two, with very large pay raises,” he said. “That’s why I believe we need to have a $3,000 pay raise for our teachers.”

Edwards believes the state Revenue Estimating Conference meeting later this month will find additional recurring money in the state budget, which he hopes lawmakers will use to attract more teachers.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s a way for our state we all aspire to be to become the state we aspire to be if we can’t invest in education,” he said. “The key: You don’t do it a year or two and then just stop. You’ve got to maintain the investments in education if you’re going to produce the results you want.

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