Louisiana should make it easier for public to search contribution records
Every campaign contribution made to an elected official in Louisiana is recorded by the state and made available online. But as Nola.com notes in its lead Sunday editorial, accessing that information can be difficult and time-consuming. For starters, important information is listed on separate websites. For example, Louisiana Ethics Administration collects candidates’ campaign finance reports and PAC lists. But if you want to know who owns a company that gave money to an elected official, you have to search through the corporate filings maintained by the Secretary of State. That needs to change, the newspaper writes. Gov. Jindal and the Legislature should make improving both websites a priority. The sites should be designed with users in mind.
Columnist Bob Mann, no neophyte when it comes to money in politics, having worked for two U.S. Senators and former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, calls the current system a form of “legalized bribery” and says it will continue unabated until the public demands that it stop: “Almost every politician knows this dirty little secret: as long as candidates don’t hold fundraisers in Buddhist temples, raise money from convicted criminals or rent out the Lincoln Bedroom, the voters really don’t care,” Mann writes.
Footnote: A simple way to add much-needed sunshine would be to require political donors to list their occupation. This information is already required of donors to federal candidates, but was not part of the package of ethics bills considered during Gov. Jindal’s first weeks in office.
LBP speaks to Baton Rouge Press Club today; NOLA audience Tuesday on payday loans
Louisiana Budget Project analyst David Gray will discuss the dangers of payday lending at today’s meeting of the Baton Rouge Press Club. The event is open to the public and starts at noon in the Iberville Room at the Belle of Baton Rouge Hotel, 102 France St. Lunch is $12 for members and $15 for non-members. On Tuesday, LBP is partnering with the United Way of Southeast Louisiana on a similar presentation in New Orleans. The “Protect Your Paycheck: The Pitfalls of Payday Lending” workshop starts at 9 a.m. at the United Way of Southeast Louisiana building in New Orleans, 2515 Canal St.
In Public Education, Edge Still Goes to the Rich
The United States is one of a few developed nations that spend more money per pupil on advantage students than disadvantaged students. A large portion of this disparity is the fact that more than half of the funding for public schools comes from local sources, mostly property taxes. As a result, some rich public school districts spend as much as $19,000 per student, while poorer districts scrape by with $5,321 per student. These disparities translate into performance gaps between wealthy and less affluent students. As Eduardo Porter writes in The New York Times, These gaps will be hard to close until the lopsided funding of education changes. As income and wealth continue to flow to the richest families in the richest neighborhoods, public education appears to be more of a force contributing to inequality of income and opportunity, rather than helping to relieve it.
Insurance companies are confusing customers in cancellation notices
The 93,000 Louisianans whose current health plans are being discontinued in 2014 have the opportunity to shop on HealthCare.gov for new plans that, in many cases, will cost less than their current coverage. But you wouldn’t know that if your only source of information was cancellation notices being sent by insurance companies. As Nola.com reports, health care advocates say some insurance companies are only offering customers a chance to renew the non-compliant policies ahead of schedule or face premium increases. Although problems with the HealthCare.gov website are frustrating enough to discourage some from advertising or using the site, some of the controversial letters were mailed to customers before problems with the website were known – raising concern that the letters are confusing people about all their options.
Remedial education at center of debate
About 60 percent of students who enter college are under-prepared in one or more subject areas, according to national research. And in Louisiana, many students start their college careers by taking remedial courses to brush up on things they should have learned in high school. Now a debate is raging in higher education circles over whether remedial students should be admitted to four-year institutions, or be required to enroll in a two-year community college. A pilot study was commissioned in an effort to find the answer, and it has now been extended through the 2014-15 school year. “The pilot study was a compromise between higher education leaders who don’t want four-year schools to offer too many remedial courses and college leaders who worry about enrollment declines as admission standards rise,” the Advocate writes.
Louisiana higher education leader may leave state for job in Florida
Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell was named as one of four finalists for a position leading Florida’s state university system. Nola.com reports that Florida’s system is the second largest in the country and has the fifth highest annual research expenditures ($1.7 billion) in the nation. Purcell says his decision to apply for the position in Florida was not made lightly and that he is enjoying his time leading the Louisiana system. He has served as the Commissioner of Higher Education in Louisiana for less than three years. In his current capacity, Purcell sets policies for the state’s four higher education systems and manages almost 217,000 students across nearly 40 campuses.