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Priorities in Louisiana

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Thursday, February 7th, 2008
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


When national companies search for new locations around the country and look at Louisiana, how important is ethics reform? A timely question to ask, since newly elected Governor Bobby Jindal is staking a major part of his reputation on bringing ethics in government to the forefront.

Michelle Millhollon addressed the issue in a Morning Advocate story this past Sunday. National business consultants were quoted saying ethics reform was not nearly as important as more emphasis on early educational training. Industry consultant Andrew Shapiro, form Princeton, New Jersey, said Louisiana’s educational problems begin at the elementary level and build from there. To have a skilled labor force, preparation must begin the moment future workers enter the school system.

Louisiana is not creating a capable workforce that can compete,” Shapiro said. He went on to say that Louisiana has no foothold in the growing high-tech field, and the job creation is suffering due to a lack of early learning the skills. What makes this all the more disturbing is that in the recent gubernatorial election, there was virtually no discussion of education in general, or particularly any renewed interest in pouring money and commitment into preschool and elementary programs. Name this state.

More wealth than any other state in America.

The home of the American cotton exchange.

Home of the first Opera House in America.

The center for trade of American goods worldwide.

One of America’s highest standards of living.

In 1850.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman writes about early learning skills in his national bestseller, “The World is Flat.” He points out that the reason countries throughout the Far East are making such giant leaps in productivity is the emphasis placed on teaching the internet to young learners. A child in a small mountain village in China has just as much access to information as a student in any Louisiana public school. How many legislative candidates or those aspiring to lead the state did you hear talking about computer access for our young people in the most recent election? What we have not learned is that there is a great disparity in learning accessibility throughout Louisiana. Middle and upper-class kids have laptops they can take home at night, and have full access to the Internet. But Louisiana has the highest underclass of poor kids in the country. And by and large, they have little exposure to the world of computers. Our educators have made little effort to bring cheaper laptops into the classroom. A number of other states are actively seeking grants to give laptops to students who can’t afford to purchase one of the new cheaper laptops. A national organization called the $100 Laptop Project will ship between 50 and 100 million laptops a year to children in underdeveloped countries. So if there is a will, we can help kids throughout the world, but are elected officials are reluctant to make the same commitment to children right here in Louisiana.Just how important is it for a state to become computer literate? The internet has become the overwhelming driving force as an information source in the world today.

One out of every eight couples married in the U.S. last year met online.

There are over 100 million registered users of My Space.

There are over 2.7 billion searches performed on Google each month.

The number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the population of the planet.

The amount of new technical information is doubling every two years.

The same amount of information is predicted to double every 72 hours by 2010.

Simply put, if a Louisiana child does not have access to their own computer both during the school day, and at home in the evening and on weekends, they will be, for all practical purposes, functionally illiterate as the grow older. Since Louisiana has one of the highest percentages of children below the poverty line, it would seem imperative that the focus be on early learning training and coming up with a plan to put an affordable laptop into the hands of every child in Louisiana public schools. 

The legislature meets beginning Sunday, and will spend one million dollars for a ten day session to consider changes in the state’s ethics laws. By waiting six weeks, the same ethics package could have been considered during the regular session. And the money saved could have put 10,000 laptops into the hands of young minds that do not have the tools for early training. Ethics reform gets good press. Computers in the hands of young kids and internet access throughout the state gets the attention of industry looking for new locations. The previous administration just wasn’t listening. The jury is out on the new guys in town.


“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.” ~Bill Gates

“But computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” ~Pablo Picasso


Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

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