Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday, September 8, 2014

State budget balanced with “imaginary numbers”; Poll finds support for publicly financed Pre-K programs; Several red states look to expand Medicaid in 2015; and Recovery School District downsizes from 568 employees to 92

State budget balanced with “imaginary numbers”

The Advocate continues to be unimpressed by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s management of the state budget, and thinks legislators should be more worried about the $993 million in “one-time” money in the current-year spending plan that must be replaced in the 2015-16 fiscal year:


Look as we might, we can’t identify the person in the State Capitol who first used a particular phrase to describe Gov. Bobby Jindal’s budgets. But we can only point to the current budget mess as justification for the apt description, “imaginary numbers.” Why? Because so much of this year’s budget is padded out with one-time money from a dizzying array of sources, not the ordinary tax revenues that are more stable and reliable year to year. It’s the opposite of a conservative budget.


Poll finds support for publicly financed Pre-K programs
From Gallup comes yet more evidence of the disconnect between what Washington is doing (virtually nothing) and what Americans actually want: A new poll finds 70 percent of Americans support using federal money to make high-quality Pre-K education available to every child. President Obama has called for universal Pre-K, but the idea has gone nowhere on Capitol Hill. As Gallup notes:


“Many education experts view pre-K education as especially important for economically disadvantaged children, whose parents may not be able to afford quality preschool programs. Poorer and minority children often lag behind other students in academic achievement, and early education is seen as a way to close these gaps — perhaps preventing them from emerging in the first place. The potential of closing the achievement gap is one of the motivating factors behind the Obama administration’s push to expand federal funding for universal access to preschool. Reflecting that push, the question wording specifically referred to “using federal money” to pay for an increase in pre-K programs.”


Several red states look to expand Medicaid in 2015

After years of railing against the supposed injustices of the Affordable Care Act, Republican governors around the country are slowly moving toward accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid, The Washington Post reports.


Indiana has an expansion plan pending with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, said he plans to submit a plan later this year, although state Republican leaders warn it will be difficult to win legislative approval. Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, also a Republican, said he will present an expansion plan to his legislature early next year. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, another Republican, is negotiating a deal with CMS, although he would also need to get such a plan past legislators. Finally, Maine lawmakers are poised to expand Medicaid if Republican Gov. Paul LePage is defeated in the November election. LePage has vetoed several bills to expand the program after they were passed by the Democrat-controlled Maine legislature. LePage trails in the latest polls.


Recovery School District downsizes from 568 employees to 92

The statewide school system designed to manage chronically underperforming schools quietly cut 84 percent of its staff this summer. While most of the employees losing their jobs were principals and teachers — an effect of RSD’s transition from directly running schools to overseeing the operations of more than 60 elementary and secondary charter schools — RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard also said the cuts involved human resources and finance teams, whose functions are being handled by the state education department.


RSD isn’t the only school system losing staff and resources to charter schools. The Advocate reports that the wave of school choice in Louisiana is drawing students away from traditional public schools into charters. That, in turn, has resulted in budget shortfalls for the systems that are largely supported by per-pupil funding from the state. For example, the Baker School Board approved a budget last week with a $1.1 million deficit, blaming the shortfall on competition from charter schools. And the problem for traditional school systems may get even worse, as the number of charter schools continues to grow and as the state’s publicly funded private school voucher program continues to expand.


Number of the Day – 84 percent — The percent of Recovery School District staffers who lost their jobs this summer (Source: