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Blanco says challenge criticism of state

Capitol news bureau

Gov. Kathleen Blanco complained Monday of what she calls unfair criticism of Louisiana in national publications.

Blanco has made attracting new firms to the state one of her top priorities. She told public school principals that jabs at the state need to be aggressively rebutted.

"We can't allow anyone to cast Louisiana in a negative tone," Blanco said. "If we don't believe in our capacity to change, then shame on us."

Last month the governor took exception to a headline in the Wall Street Journal. The story, which touched on allegations of wrongdoing in New Jersey state government, included a headline that stated, "Louisiana North: Why New Jersey is a Pit of Corruption."

Blanco fired off a letter to the newspaper to complain. Eight days later, she said, Newsweek magazine "said pretty much the same thing" in a story that made a negative reference to Louisiana's political history. Blanco said she sent a complaint letter to Newsweek.

The governor told reporters after her 20-minute speech that such references stem from the state's past.

"It is important to answer that kind of remark," she said. Blanco said she challenged business leaders last week to speak up when they encounter such comments.

"If you don't answer then the image remains," the governor said. Blanco said the state has not gotten proper credit for improvements during the two terms of former Gov. Mike Foster, who left office in January.

The state has long been viewed from outside its borders as one that tolerates colorful if sometimes corrupt politicians amid staggering problems with poverty, education and key state services.

Blanco told school principals that they are part of an ongoing state improvement story -- steady improvements in public school performance.

"I am just thrilled at the success Louisiana can brag about," she said.

"Louisiana is changing," Blanco said. "We have to change. We know education is one of the key areas." A better education system, she said, "is extremely important to the image we project."

The governor said 95 percent of school districts have made improvements under the state's measuring stick, Education Week magazine rated Louisiana tops in public school improvements and the state has reached a 10-year high in its percentage of certified teachers in the classroom.

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