Private school enrollment drops
It is hardly a secret that private schools have been some of the most ardent backers of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s controversial school voucher plan. And this week the enterprising Danielle Dreilinger in Nola.com gives a possible explanation: Private-school enrollment in Louisiana has dropped 5 percent — and 17 percent in New Orleans and Baton Rouge — since 2000. “As a result, some private school advocates have wholeheartedly endorsed Gov. Bobby Jindal’s voucher initiative, which lets low-income students from sub-par public schools use public money to pay tuition at private schools, subsidizing their enrollment. At the same time, Louisiana is quietly piloting a second program to support private schools: a tuition donation rebate program.”
Union membership down in Louisiana
Membership in unions dropped to 4.3 percent of the Louisiana workforce in 2013 from 6.2 percent in 2012, according to a new report released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationally the rate is 11.3 percent, which held steady from 2012 to 2013. Increasing union membership in Louisiana could help reverse a trend that has caused wages to raise by only 1 percent since 1979. According to a news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “In 2013, among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $950, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $750. In addition to coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, this earnings difference reflects a variety of influences, including variations in the distributions of union members and nonunion employees by occupation, industry, firm size, or geographic region.”
Local economist to assemble panel to review Louisiana tax structure
Local economist and LSU Public Administration Institute Director Jim Richardson will be in charge of a review of the state’s tax structure called for by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, according to the Baton Rouge Business Report. Richardson said the goal of the review is to create a tax structure that is “fair, competitive, stable, and simple.”
“Over the past 20 years Louisiana’s tax revenue has seen dramatic shifts,” reads the article by the Business Report. “Oil, gas and mineral taxes—which once equaled approximately 40% of Louisiana’s tax revenue, have shrunk to only 15%, while sales and income tax have grown to 60% of the tax revenue, according to the release from LSU.”
Mann: Save money by cutting state contracts
Nola.com columnist and LSU professor Bob Mann has sided with State Treasurer John Kennedy in the latter man’s annual quest to cut spending on consulting contracts. “The list of wasteful and silly contracts that state Treasurer John Kennedy shared with me is dizzying. Many state contracts fund vital work. Others, however, are a shocking waste and would never have been awarded if officials were required to first seek bids or legislative approval.” Mann says more oversight could save the state more than a $5 million consulting contract.
Kennedy has been on an annual quest to cut the contracts, which have failed to win support in the state Legislature.
Audit shows thousands of dollars paid to legislators in per diem payments
Louisiana legislators end up taking home much more than the $22,800 salary they earn from the state thanks to $149 per day payments for travel both in-state and out-of-state on official business. According to Nola.com, “Two recent audits of the state Senate and House of Representatives show that lawmakers earned between $32,000 and $66,000 in salary and per diem payments alone during the 2013 fiscal year.”
New community college president named
Monty Sullivan will be the new president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, according to The Advocate. Sullivan is the chancellor of Delgado Community College in New Orleans. According to The Advocate, “Sullivan specifically has been credited with placing an increased emphasis on college completion. It fits in line with a recent shift the state has undergone — from clamoring to enroll as many students as possible, to a new model where schools are rewarded for how many students leave school with a degree in hand.”