Former Governor Kathleen Blanco’s Katrina legacy may be complicated, but supporters say it’s hard to argue against what she was able to achieve in education during her one term.

Before securing a thousand dollar pay raise in the last session, the last time Louisiana teachers got a raise was during the Blanco years. Council for a Better Louisiana President Barry Erwin says Blanco made that pay raise a calling card during her gubernatorial campaign.

“One of the things at the time when she was Governor was that we were far below the southern average, way down behind other states and she made it a principle of her campaign along with other things to raise that teacher pay to the southern regional average.”

Before serving in public office Blanco was a Louisiana schoolteacher.

After Katrina crippled New Orleans Blanco moved to seize control of then failing Crescent City schools under the state-run Recovery School District. Erwin says it was bold action that paid off long term despite causing political friction.

“Against really big political odds and opposition from many of her political allies, she said we need to something better for those kids. So, the state took over all of those schools and put them in the RSD.”

The Democratic governor battled with New Orleans Democratic leaders over the decision.

When the state budget was flush with post-Katrina revenue Erwin credits Blanco with leading the charge to make sure that extra money was reinvested into all aspects of the education system.

“She did something really monumental and brought us up the southern regional average in terms of higher education funding. That was one of the first times that had happened in 30 years or more.”

Blanco will be buried Saturday in Lafayette.

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