Showdown over Common Core
After the Legislature refused to backtrack on Louisiana’s commitment to the Common Core, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced a series of executive actions aimed at ending Louisiana’s participation in the controversial education standards. Characterizing the standards—developed by a consortium of states—as a federal intrusion into education policy, the governor said the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) did not follow the state’s procurement laws when buying the tests associated with the standards, and that he was ordering the contract re-bid, according to the Associated Press.
In a rare show of public defiance, state Superintendent of Education John White pushed back almost immediately with a fact sheet claiming the governor does not have the authority to override BESE and unilaterally pull the state out of Common Core. In fact, White said the governor does not have authority to set education standards or pick tests, and that his announcement would not stop school district from moving forward.
Hours later, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols announced that her department was suspending a state testing contract that had been in place since 2003, which White had suggested would be used to implement Common Core tests, reported the Advocate. Jindal previously was a Common Core supporter, but changed his mind in recent months as Tea Party activists and a minority of legislators unsuccessfully tried to undo the new standards during the legislative session.
Louisiana lags in foundation’s “new economy” report
The Information Technology and Invention Foundation–a Washington, D.C. nonprofit focused on studying the “innovation economy”—ranked Louisiana 46th in its 2014 “new economy” index. According to the Advocate: “The index uses 25 indicators in five categories to assess states’ fundamental capacity to transform their economies and incubate innovation: knowledge jobs, globalization, economic dynamism, the digital economy and innovation capacity.”
Economic development Secretary Stephen Moret said the state’s low ranking reflects its historic economic strengths: oil and gas, petrochemicals and tourism. Indeed, Louisiana did score high on the index’s “manufacturing value added” metric. Moret also added that Louisiana is taking steps to build up industries like digital media and movie production. But this comes at a high cost to state taxpayers due to millions in tax credits and other subsidies given to businesses—dollars that hurt the state’s ability to make long-term investments in things like higher education and infrastructure.
Jindal may veto bill expanding parole
A bi-partisan bill that would make it possible for violent offenders to seek parole after serving 75 percent of their sentences—down from 85 percent today—may be vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, reports the Times-Picayune. House Bill 1255 would also require just a majority vote, instead of a unanimous vote, by a parole board to release an inmate early. The change would not be retroactive, and was supported by Louisiana’s powerful sheriffs and district attorneys. Supporters of the bill note that it addresses inmates who will be released eventually anyway, and that they will still be supervised by probation officers. Opponents are concerned that the bill affects violent offenders. According to the Legislative Fiscal Office, paroling an inmate from a local jail saves taxpayers $7,975 a year. For inmates released from state prisons, taxpayers save $18,239.