Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013

Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013

Lawmakers must stop clinging to Affordable Care Act opposition; Minimum wage not enough; Education superintendent explains Compass teacher evaluation tool; and Prior generation’s investments in the public goods slowly eroding. 6 percent – The increase in hourly earnings since 1979 for workers in the top 10 percent (earning at least $31.02 per hour), compared to an 8 percent decline for the bottom 10 percent (earning at most $7.71 per hour). (Source: State of Working Louisiana 2013)

Lawmakers must stop clinging to Affordable Care Act opposition
Georgia Democrat Sen. Richard Russell fought the civil rights laws of the 1960s with more passion than any member of Congress. But after President Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, Russell told his constituents, “I have no apologies to anyone for the fight I made. I only regret that we did not prevail… But these statutes are on the books, and it becomes our duty as good citizens to live with them.” In like manner, Robert Mann writes on Nola.com that Gov. Bobby Jindal and other GOP leaders should stop trying to thwart the federal Affordable Care Act that was passed by Congress, signed by the president and affirmed by the Supreme Court. “Like Social Security, civil rights, Medicare and other once-controversial reforms,” Mann writes, “the time for the political posturing is over. Republicans fought and lost.”

LBP launches a new website

The Louisiana Budget Project has launched its new website, which you can view by clicking here. And while you’re perusing through the webpages and reading our blog “Our Two Cents,” make sure you download a copy of our newest report “State of Working Louisiana 2013.”

Letter: Minimum wage not enough
Two bills currently before Congress – House Resolution 1010 and Senate Resolution S460 – propose raising the federal minimum wage to $10.01 over the next three years. While neither bill is likely to pass, Baton Rouge pipe fitter (and prolific letter-writer) Michael Day says the current $7.25 hourly minimum wage is “starvation wages” for many employees. Day writes the purchasing power for minimum wage earners today is 30 percent lower than similar workers in 1969. This is bad for an economy, because if workers have no money, businesses have no customers. In addition to improving business, Day notes increasing the minimum wage would also conserve taxpayer dollars by reducing the number of workers relying on federal assistance programs like food stamps, Medicaid and housing subsidies.

Lagniappe: The minimum wage would be $10.74 today – or 48 percent higher – if it had kept up with inflation since 1968. (Source: State of Working Louisiana 2013)

Education superintendent explains Compass teacher evaluation tool
This week the state Department of Education will release its first annual report on Compass, the tool Louisiana teachers use to set goals for student achievement and to receive feedback on classroom performance. Education Superintendent John White explained the program’s benefits and flaws in a letter to Nola.com. White says Compass does a better job differentiating between effective and ineffective teachers than prior systems, and the program’s results corresponded with district improvements. But White says some teacher ratings may be inaccurate due to lax assessments by administrators and differences in the number of students who participated in state-administered tests.

Prior generation’s investments in the public goods slowly eroding
America is graced with some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, leaving many in awe at the wonders of the outdoors. Earlier generations made significant investments in these public goods – even during the Great Depression – by building hundreds of miles of hiking trails, working public bathrooms and safe bridges. These public works projects had the dual benefit of keeping people employed and providing access to scenery that not even billionaires can buy. Our nation’s investment in the great outdoors is directly linked to Congress’ debates of fiscal issues, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof explains recent budget debates have led to an erosion of public goods. For example, only one-quarter of the U.S. Forest Service’s 158,000 miles of trails meet its own standards. The agency’s budget woes also reduce its ability to leverage free labor; it has enough money to properly equip only one-third of volunteers.

6 percent – The increase in hourly earnings since 1979 for workers in the top 10 percent (earning at least $31.02 per hour), compared to an 8 percent decline for the bottom 10 percent (earning at most $7.71 per hour). (Source: State of Working Louisiana 2013)