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|Monroe chamber honors Beach, Taylor, others|
Gov. Bobby Jindal said Louisiana must work to graduate more high school students, and he opposes raising taxes to shore up an anticipated $2-billion budget shortfall in the state's 2009-10 fiscal year.
Jindal was on hand Monday to speak at the Monroe Chamber of Commerce annual meeting and banquet at the Civic Center.
Jindal cited a recent study indicating fewer than 65 percent of high school students graduate on time. The same study also found as many as 17,000 high school students drop out each year.
"This figure is disturbing," Jindal said. "This is an incredibly large number of our sons and daughters that do not see a future for them in school. We have got to turn this trend around."
Jindal said his staff will work with legislators in the upcoming Regular Session to address the high school dropout rate.
"Next session, we will work to close these gaps in the system that too many of our children are slipping through by giving students multiple pathways to success and keeping them engaged in their education - which we all know is the ticket to their future," Jindal said. "We will work to create more opportunities for students to connect coursework to careers, to take career and technical education courses, and to participate in meaningful work-study programs with real businesses and real industry personnel."
Jindal also revealed he will work with the state Legislature to rework the state education funding formulas which determines how state funds are used in schools and universities.
Jindal said he wants the Boards of Regents to dedicate 25 percent of formula funds to performance-based incentives, rather than an exclusively enrollment-based system as currently exists.
"The current funding formula incentives enrollment growth only and simply funds institutions at an amount believed to be comparable to their peers," Jindal said. "There is little, if any, incentive for institutions to target resources toward academic programs that produce graduates in critical workforce shortage areas, or incentives for institutions to focus attention on research that will render the state more competitive in the global economy."
Jindal's remark about opposing a tax hike to offset a deficit in the state's new fiscal year budget drew an applause.
"Now more than ever it's important for Louisiana families to keep more money in their pockets," Jindal said.
Meanwhile, chamber officials presented their annual awards, including the chamber's highest honor, the Rambin-Silverstein Memorial Civic Award. The 2008 award was given posthumously to Sharon Allen Taylor, a long-time volunteer and leader of a number of community organizations including the Wellspring, United Way and, most recently, the Children's Coalition.
Also, Steel Fabricators founder and president Don Beach was awarded the 2008 Kitty DeGree Foundation Lifetime Business Achievement Award.
Beach first entered business in 1965, when he purchased a used construction crane. He built on the success of that business and eventually opened two other successful construction enterprises, including his most recent endeavor, Steel Fabricators, which has grown to employ more than 150 employees since 1973.
Janie Russ, of Southern Hospitality services, was the recipient of the Bernard Heflin Ambassador of the Year Award for her work with the chamber.
The chamber also honored Reed White for his service to the chamber. Reed spearheaded the chamber's ambassador club for three years.
The chamber banquet concluded with the installation of a new slate of executive officers.
Monroe realtor Isaac White will serve as chairman. D&J Construction Vice President Terry Baugh was elected chairman-elect for 2010.
Paul Hutchinson, of Iberia Bank, will serve as treasurer and Sue Nicholson will maintain her position as president and CEO.