State budget cuts gut public education funding
Louisiana’s investment in K-12 education has been frozen for five years in a row, translating into a net loss for students as per-pupil funding for the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) has remained stagnant in the face of inflation. A new study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows the state is now spending $212 less per student than it did before the recession. This is especially troubling in light of recent studies showing lowered social mobility and growing inequality, and mounting evidence that education is the key to reversing those trends.
Shortfall in hospital lease revenues could mean more cuts to higher ed
Who to believe – Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budget office or the Legislative Fiscal Office? That’s the basic question after the fiscal office discovered the state will only generate $101 million by leasing its charity hospitals to private operators – about $39 million less than expected. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols insists the fiscal office has its facts wrong, and that the lease income will materialize as expected. This is more than an academic dispute, as the Legislature is counting on the lease income to help fund public colleges and universities (the private hospital operators are already guaranteed certain reimbursement according to contracts they signed with the state). These are the same colleges and universities that have seen their state support cut by almost 65 percent since 2009.
Poverty numbers released next week; 10 myths about TANF
As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics prepares to unveil new data about poverty in America, the Urban Institute published a list of 10 myth-busting facts about welfare. Among other things, the Urban Institute points out that welfare payments are not enough to lift families out of poverty; that a family of three with income above $1,500 a month is not poor enough to qualify for assistance; and the amount the federal government gives states for cash assistance has not changed since 1997.
Mad as hell about SNAP cuts from farm bill
The head of the National Corn Growers Association said his association is “mad as hell” about some proposed changes to the federal farm bill, the primary agricultural and food legislation currently debated by Congress. The Hill blogger Jim Weill says corn growers aren’t the only group that should be upset. “If you are a man, woman, parent, business owner, farmer, teacher or veteran, you should be furious. If you’re old, young, Black, Hispanic or White, your blood should be boiling. Why? Because we all stand to lose big.” Weill is referring to a House plan that would cut $40 billion in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) benefits. A recent profile of Louisiana families that receive food assistance found that most are headed by a working adult, earn income below the poverty line and have children under 18. In addition, more families may be in need of assistance as food insecurity problems persist in the Pelican State.
Can the federal government do anything about inequality?
Four political scientists from some of the nation’s most prestigious universities published a new report seeking to answer a question that lies at the heart of many contemporary political debates: “Can government policies counteract inequality in any meaningful way?” The academics contend government can help restore economic fairness by, among other things, reducing the outsized influence of moneyed interests on the political process and improving voting turnout among the poor and disenfranchised. For more details read Thomas Edsall’s column in the New York Times.
Asset-building group begins listening campaign
A group of grassroots organizations, nonprofits, advocacy organizations, policy makers, community leaders and universities met with residents in St. Landry Parish last month to discuss how residents can build economic security and gain wealth over their lifetimes. The meeting marked the first listening event for a collective called the Louisiana Building Economic Security Together, or LABEST. The group’s statewide director Joyce James said LABEST will use the information they gather during their listening events “to galvanize advocates, policy makers, nonprofits, and community leaders; to engage, and educate, and empower them.” Some of the most critical issues identified by residents at last month’s meeting included illiteracy, services to elderly citizens, education and voting rights.