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Governor Bentley talks education, healthcare, and jobs at annual Alabama Update luncheon

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) –  Governor Robert Bentley knows it isn’t all good news in the state. But at the Alabama Update luncheon at the Von Braun Center, Wednesday, he assured some good things are happening in Alabama with the resources available.

Bentley jumped right in listing the state’s successes over the years. The first topic: Pre-K education and the legislature’s role in its continued growth state-wide.

“[The legislature] has helped us increase by $10 million the last three years our Pre-K program, which is graded as  number one in the country, as being the best,” said Bentley.

In the past year alone, the program has added 100 more programs in 40 counties, reaching 1800 students.

Bentley said it is that foundation that sets students up for success in the state’s college and career readiness programs – and the Tennessee Valley’s highly specialized technology fields.

“This past year we had 3000 more students graduate than the year before, so that’s significant. …if you get a student interested in an area they’re going to graduate from high school,” said Bentley.

Of course, the Governor could not avoid the recent job losses across North Alabama, with factories like International Paper, Pilgrim’s, and Hillshire brands shutting down for good, putting thousands of people out of a job.

“We have to continue to open up jobs for those individuals,” said Bentley. “There are some plants that age out and you can’t stop them, like the Courtland plant. But we are trying to help those individuals.”

Bentley says it is corporations like Remington arms, and the jobs they bring, that make the state even more appealing to companies. While the governor would not name any specifics, he does say the state continues to court various industries in hopes of creating even more Alabama jobs.

The governor also took the opportunity to address the state’s healthcare issues, specifically Medicaid. He set himself apart from his Democratic opponent Parker Griffith by once again staunchly stating his refusal to expand the program in Alabama.

Instead he wants to focus on getting more people off Medicaid.

“We are not trying to expand Medicaid, but reduce Medicaid and create more jobs. But we are reforming Medicaid,” said Bentley.

He referenced Huntsville Hospital’s participation in creating regional care organizations, where a community-led network coordinates the health care of Medicaid patients in each region.

“Medicaid has not been working, ever,” said Bentley. “I saw Medicaid patients and it didn’t work. But we want to make sure the 950,000 patients on Medicaid right now are taken care of properly and managed well.”