Gov. John Bel Edwards was elected Sunday as chair of the Southern Regional Education Board at the organization’s annual meeting.

“As the new Chair of SREB, I am looking forward to elevating the dialogue in Louisiana and other member states around the importance of strengthening student learning and preparedness at every educational level,” Edwards said in a prepared statement released by his office. “Louisiana, in particular, is at a turning point when it comes to funding for education, and SREB has the distinction of being the only regional organization that spans early childhood through higher education.”

The Atlanta-based SREB has 16 member states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. The nonprofits’ goal is to improve public education. It provides policymakers with independently collected data and recommendations.

The board has 80 members and as chair, Edwards will lead the collaboration between governors, legislators and state education leaders. He also will chair SREB’s Commission on Teacher Preparedness.

“This is a particularly important time as SREB commissions explore teacher preparation and continue to focus on college affordability,” said SREB President Dave Spence.