Governor Robert Bentley announced his plans to expand education and training for Alabamians last night in his annual State of the State address. His proposal, which he calls the Great State 2019 plan, will cover a wide range of issues.
“This bold course of action will guide us over the next three years,” said Bentley. “It will address long-standing problems from healthcare to prison reform with cost-effective, common sense solutions.”
Bentley told the Alabama legislature the state could no longer ignore persistent problems.
“Alabama is the sixth poorest state in the country. While we rank number one in football teams and economic development accolades, our state consistently falls dead last in virtually every quality of life ranking from infant mortality to obesity,” said Bentley.
Bentley says over the next three years he wants to improve the number of health care providers in rural areas of the state. He says Alabama ranks 40th in the nation for number of physicians per capita and dead last in the number of dentists.
“It is no wonder then that we see rising rates of preventable and manageable disease, especially among rural, low-income counties,” said Bentley.
In an effort to increase the number of doctors in rural, low-income counties. Bentley says he will increase funding for medical students who commit to serving a period of time in an underserved area of the state. He says the funding would apply to physicians, physicians assistants, nurses and dentists. Bentley also intends to offer tuition incentives to medical students who commit to serving in underserved areas of the state.
On the education front, Bentley says he wants to increase access to pre-kindergarten education by doubling funding for the First Class Pre-K program.
“By the year 2019, we will be able to tell every parent in Alabama, there is a Pre-K classroom available for your child,” Bentley said.
Additionally, the Governor’s plan calls for the construction of new prisons to replace aging state facilities long under scrutiny for overcrowding, violence and abuse. Bentley proposed a bond issue last night to build four new large prisons to replace existing ones, including the state’s embattled Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.
Additional reporting provided by Esther Ciammachilli and the Associated Press.