Juvenile justice programs lack funding, oversight
State spending on diversion programs designed to keep troubled youth out of institutions plunged by nearly two-thirds in the last fiscal year, and oversight of the outside contractors who handle these programs is lax, according to an audit released Monday. Louisiana spent $2.5 million on diversion programs in 2012-13 to help more than 6,500 youths, but in the current year spending is scheduled to drop to less than $1 million, with 2,535 youths being served. The Advocate reports the state did a poor job of evaluating which outside contractors were doing a good job steering children away from incarceration. It’s the second time in a month that the state Office of Juvenile Justice has been rapped by auditors for doing a poor job of overseeing its contractors.
Billionaire Kansas industrialists host rally to oppose health coverage
The local pressure group financed by the billionaire Koch brothers is holding its first rally Tuesday evening, and the attendees include the chairman of the House Health & Welfare Committee. Americans for Prosperity-Louisiana says its top priority this year is to keep 250,000 low-income Louisianans from getting much-needed health coverage, and has enlisted several conservative legislators to the cause. Unfortunately for opponents of Medicaid expansion, refusing this coverage opportunity also means losing out on $105 million that could be used to fund roads, higher education or other priorities. It also means businesses could be stuck with millions of dollars in new taxes.
Letter: Louisiana’s rhetoric doesn’t match reality on early childhood education
While legislators took historic steps to overhaul Louisiana’s hodge-podge of early-childhood education programs in 2012 by adding new standards and accountability measures, the funding to implement those changes has been sorely lacking. Writes Melanie Bronfin, the driving force behind the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families, in The Times-Picayune: “In 2012, our state passed the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Act declaring our commitment to improving our early learning system, in part through the Child Care Assistance Program. Meanwhile, in the last five years our state has reduced overall CCAP funding by more than 50 percent, and the number of children served in CCAP has been cut in half over the same time period. As the legislative session approaches, let’s call upon our policymakers to invest in what Nobel Prize winning economist James Heckman declares is the best return we can get for our public dollars — that is, high-quality early childhood education that supports our economic future.”
New York Times: Restaurant industry funds “research” against minimum wage
A Washington, D.C. nonprofit that is fighting against efforts to raise the minimum wage is closely tied to the restaurant industry and other well-heeled opponents of a living wage, the New York Times reports. The Economic Policies Institute shares office space and close ties with a conservative public-relations firm, and has published a stream of “research” papers criticizing the minimum wage. The Employment Policies Institute, founded two decades ago, is led by the advertising and public relations executive Richard B. Berman, who has made millions of dollars in Washington by taking up the causes of corporate America. He has repeatedly created official-sounding nonprofit groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom that have challenged limits like the ban on indoor smoking and the push to restrict calorie counts in fast foods.