Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Poverty among school-aged children is a growing problem in Louisiana; State struggling to implement new special education law; The great startup letdown; Louisiana rice farmers benefit from improved U.S.-Cuba relations; Daily Dime goes on hiatus

Poverty among school-aged children is a growing problem in Louisiana
Louisiana’s child poverty rate is the fourth-highest in the nation, and that dismal statistic is getting worse. New Census Bureau data finds that the share of school-aged children living below the poverty line increased in nearly two-thirds of Louisiana’s parishes since the Great Recession. Twenty-two parishes experienced a drop in the share of school-aged kids below poverty, while the remaining 42 witnessed increases. The parishes with the largest increases in school-aged poverty rates were Jefferson, St. Helena, St. John, St. Martin, Union and Webster. Those with the largest declines were Avoyelles, Catahoula, Morehouse and St. Mary.

This latest data shows again why it’s so important for state policymakers to make stronger investments in children. Increasing the state Earned Income Tax Credit is one way to help more children beat the odds by boosting their parents’ income. Research shows children from families receiving the EITC do better in school and earn more as adults.

 

State struggling to implement new special education law
Changes to how some 14,000 special education high school students can earn their diploma received heavy scrutiny from legislators during a Joint House and Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday. Legislators grilled state education officials on their slow implementation of Act 833, which provides new pathways for special education students to advance toward a degree. As The Advocate writes:

The new (Individual Education Plans) were supposed to be completed within 30 days after the start of school, which some lawmakers now say privately was unrealistic. The state extended that deadline to January, which then caused parents and others to complain that students still are awaiting guidance with nearly half the school year finished.

State Superintendent of Education John White said his agency is doing its best to train teachers and parents about the new law, but admitted that the department wasn’t where it ought to be.

 

The great startup letdown
Entrepreneurship is key to a growing middle class. But the start-up rate for companies today is significantly lower than a few decades ago – decreasing the number of jobs and businesses that have historically supported the middle class. The Washington Post highlights these trends in its latest installment of its “Liftoff and Letdown” series:

The nation’s “start-up rate,” the number of new companies as a share of total companies, declined by 12 percent from the late 1980s to the eve of the Great Recession. … By 2011, it was about 25 percent lower than it was in the late ’80s…. (R)esearch suggests America would have 1.1 million more jobs today if dynamism were still at even mid-1980s levels. More jobs would reduce competition among would-be workers for available slots, which would mean companies would need to pay workers more to attract or keep them.

The Post found that established companies are spending considerably more time influencing favorable rules and regulations to block innovation:

This brings us to the second problem with U.S. entre­pre­neur­ship today: Those older firms appear to be growing more interested in what economist William Baumol called “unproductive entrepreneurship.” Put simply, that means companies are ramping up their efforts to win favors from the government — tax breaks, spending contracts or industry regulations that favor their firm over potential competitors. Many economists, such as Luigi Zingales of the University of Chicago, contend those efforts divert resources that could be boosting the economy and sparking more job creation.

 

Louisiana rice farmers benefit from improved U.S.-Cuba relations
President Barack Obama’s surprise announcement to normalize America’s relations with Cuba received praise from an unexpected corner: Louisiana’s rice farmers. That’s because they see the potential for a major new export market, The News-Star reports:

Elton Kennedy of Morehouse Parish, perhaps the state’s largest rice grower and a leader in the USA Rice Federation, hopes Congress will move forward in ending the embargo now that President Barack Obama said his administration would work toward resuming diplomatic relations and trade with Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years… “It will definitely be a great boost especially to rice growers. We need the market so bad because our exports have been lacking. It’s great news and something that should have already happened. I hope Congress will make it happen because we need it badly. It’s so natural for us because Cuba is close to our shore. It’s sad because all this (embargo) has done is hurt ourselves. It’s time to do something,” Kennedy said.

Cuba was Louisiana’s biggest rice trade market before the trade embargo. State Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain also told the News-Star that nearly 65 percent of all trade goods to and from Cuba traveled through the Port of New Orleans a half-century ago.

 

Daily Dime goes on hiatus
Producing a daily roundup of other people’s work on tax- and budget-related issues is a surprisingly labor-intensive effort. And this being the holidays, the Daily Dime thinks it’s time for a break. We will be back on January 5. In the meantime, we wish everyone a joyful, healthy and safe holiday season and a wonderful start to 2015.

 

Number of the Day
42 –
The number of parishes with poverty rates of school-aged children above pre-recession levels (Source: The Census Bureau)