Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Schools don’t have resources for Common Core test, teachers say; What’s the matter with Kansas?; Health care reform may help reduce recidivism; Bob Mann: Budgets are a statement of priorities; and Nation's largest Protestant denomination calls for payday loan reform. $17,486 — the average annual cost of housing a prisoner in Louisiana, the state with the highest incarceration rate in the nation (Source: Times-Picayune)

Schools don’t have resources for Common Core test, teachers say
Could under-funded schools prove more effective than legislators at undermining Common Core? While conservative legislators and Tea Party activists failed to derail the Common Core education standards this legislative session, 87 percent of teachers surveyed say their schools lack the technology needed to implement the new tests and that low levels of computer literacy could dampen students’ odds of success, according to the Times-Picayune. The results, which come from an Louisiana Federation of Teachers’ survey of 1,011 teachers, contradict Superintendent of Education John White’s assurances that school are prepared to administer the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test. Between 2008 and 2014, state support for K-12 schools dropped $212 per student. The PARCC test will be taken by students in third through eighth grade for the first time next year.  Gov. Bobby Jindal — a former support of the standards who has since changed his mind — has publicly stated his office is trying to find a way to unilaterally pull the state out of Common Core and PARCC.

What’s the matter with Kansas?
In 2012, Kansas policymakers enacted one of the most radical state tax cuts in history. The result? Plummeting revenues that triggered deep cuts to critical services like education, a credit rating downgrade and lagging employment growth (despite Gov. Sam Brownback’s claim that the plan would be an economic booster shot), according to Nick Johnson at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that some political leaders in other states who were eager to cut revenues are starting to lose some confidence in light of the disastrous results in Kansas. Here in Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal has said he plans another push to eliminate the state income tax – an idea that failed to gain support in 2013.

Health care reform may help reduce recidivism
An American behind bars is far more likely to suffer from a mental illness or substance abuse disorder than his or her un-incarcerated neighbors, and untreated behavioral health issues can make it harder for offenders to transition back to civilian life. It is not uncommon for a prisoner to receive care while incarcerated, only to lose access to services when released, making it more difficult to hold down a job and contributing to high rates of recidivism. Noticing this link — costly both in terms of lost liberty and wasted taxpayers dollars — the sheriff of San Francisco is working to make sure that inmates get connected to health coverage when they are finished serving their time, reports National Public Radio. Former prisoners in the past often lacked access to even basic affordable health care, something that has changed now that the Affordable Care Act has made new insurance options available. Unfortunately, Louisiana has so far resisted anything associated with Obamacare — including expanding coverage to uninsured adults — and is unlikely to follow a similar common sense approach.

Bob Mann: Budgets are a statement of priorities
In a column titled “Shouldn’t it be easier to get into college than prison?” Times-Picayune writer Bob Mann points out the stark disparity in how Louisiana policymakers treat criminal justice compared to higher education. Louisiana has some of the harshest sentencing laws and the highest incarceration rate in the nation at the same time colleges and universities are being chronically underfunded and need-based tuition aid stays flat. Some examples: Recent attempts to reform drug sentencing laws were killed in the legislature after opposition from sheriffs. State support for higher education has plummeted. The cost of TOPS — the state’s merit-based student aid program — have skyrocketed in recent years along with annual tuition hikes as high as 10 percent, even as need-based Go Grants have been held flat. The result? A state where young people — particularly those from lower-income backgrounds — find it harder to get a degree and are more likely to end up behind bars. According to Mann, this result didn’t come about by accident. It is by design.

Nation’s largest Protestant denomination calls for payday loan reform
The Southern Baptist Convention is taking a stand against predatory payday lending.  A resolution that passed at the organization’s annual meeting in Baltimore says payday loans conflict with God’s plan for human relationships, is a direct violation of the Love Commandment, and fails to respect the dignity of individuals. It calls on churches, businesses, governments and people to provide better solutions for meeting short-term financial needs, provide financial stewardship classes to the community, and to investigate current payday lending abuses. You can click here to read the full resolution (scroll approximately three-fourths of the way down).

$17,486 — the average annual cost of housing a prisoner in Louisiana, the state with the highest incarceration rate in the nation (Source: Times-Picayune)