One Acadiana officials are urging Louisiana to maintain the education reforms made over the past 15 years, including offering families the choice of charter schools to avoid sending kids to failing schools, and to increase the funding for early childhood education.

“Abandoning these reforms would be a major step backward,” One Acadiana CEO and President Jason El Koubi said Wednesday, a day before public school starts in Lafayette Parish.

One Acadiana — a regional economic development agency based in Lafayette — held its news conference on public education at the Cecil J. Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning.

El Koubi and other agency officials ticked off the gains Louisiana has made in pre-K-12 public education — the increase of 20 percentage points since 2000 in students scoring at the basic level; lower dropout rates; and a 73 percent graduation rate in the 2012-13 school year.

They also highlighted how far Louisiana has to go to reach the national average: The state still ranks at the tail end of national education lists, including being 45th in graduation rates and 47th in student proficiency in reading, math, science and writing.

“Despite these significant gains, thousands of Louisiana students are still behind … and are leaving high school in many cases without a degree, unprepared for college and unprepared for a career,” El Koubi said.

One Acadiana is urging current and future state office holders to enact and align policies that: maintain and improve academic standards; keep and improve the accountability system that gauges the standards; prioritize and increase funding for early childhood education; maintain the laws that let local educators manage schools and teach children without school boards’ meddling; and keep the charter school option open for families.

“The sad fact is we have far too many families that are faced with no choice but to send their child, every day, to an underperforming school,” said Jay Jackson, chairman of the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council

Margaret Trahan, president and CEO of United Way of Acadiana, urged state officials to allocate more money to early childhood education programs. Too often, she said, children from poor families enter kindergarten ill-prepared.

One Acadiana’s news conference was the second of its four Priorities for a Better Acadiana events aimed at raising the standard of living in the organization’s nine parishes — Lafayette, Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary and Vermilion.

The first priority, unveiled last week, focuses on maintaining the economic gains made in the past few years.

On Aug. 20 at South Louisiana Community College’s New Iberia campus, One Acadiana will highlight development on the region’s workforce. On Aug. 27 at the Billeaud Companies office on St. Nazaire Road in Broussard, the focus will be on completing Interstate 49 South and other transportation projects.