Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Spending freeze puts the squeeze on graduate programs; A Requiem for UNO; After controversy, Louisiana gets federal pre-K grant; and No more billing rape victims

Spending freeze puts the squeeze on graduate programs

It is no secret that most of the spending in Louisiana’s $25 billion state budget is “protected,” either by law or the state’s frequently amended constitution. Legislators have little discretion in where to make cuts, and two amendments approved by voters made this problem even worse by locking in spending for hospitals and nursing homes. The result, writes Carrie Wooten in a letter to the Advocate, is a bigger target on the back of higher education.


Now that a substantial portion of healthcare funding has been secured through the constitution, higher education is left standing as the last major source of “flexible” funding.


Wooten, a graduate student at LSU and the director of Louisiana Progress, describes the impact first-hand:


Let me give you a small but personal example of the harm this process has caused. LSU faculty and staff received an email last week letting them know that yet another spending freeze was being implemented. As a doctoral student at LSU, the email came at a particularly inopportune time.

Doctoral students in my program are required to participate in national and regional conferences each year to present our research, but all of our travel funding was abruptly halted this year by our department…The dean of my college was working with others to locate alternative sources of graduate student travel funds outside of our college’s budget, but a specific area that was frozen by Gov. Bobby Jindal last week was travel funding — so our battle, for the foreseeable future, is a completely losing one.


While a freeze on travel spending may not sound like a big deal, Wooten writes that ultimately it is the prestige of LSU that suffers.


The university has supplied this funding because it benefits from having its students present at prestigious conferences and proudly represent the LSU brand. The loss of travel funds for students will inevitably pull down LSU’s presence at these meetings and further diminish our reputation as a leading research university.


On a more positive note, LSU did have its accreditation renewed for another decade this week.


A Requiem for UNO

Jarvis DeBerry of writes that years of repeated budget cuts at the University of New Orleans has left the Lakefront campus a shell of its former self. In a quasi-obituary, DeBerry tallies up the faculty layoffs and program eliminations that culminated in the recent vote of no-confidence in President Peter Fos.


Across our state, our public universities (and to some extent our private ones) are taking huge hits.

That would be tragic no matter the circumstances. But the suffering of our universities is also painfully ironic given that so much of the suffering has happened on the watch of our highly educated governor, Bobby Jindal. Who’d have thought that the legacy of a Rhodes Scholar, a bonafide wunderkind, would be the withering of our higher education system? It would have been hard to imagine. But there’s no denying it. During the Jindal years, higher education has suffered. By January 2014, $700 million had been cut from higher ed.


After controversy, Louisiana gets federal pre-K grant

Some good news on the education front: Louisiana is one of 13 states that will receive a grant from the federal government to expand pre-K programs for 4-year olds. The state will get $32 million over four years, the Advocate reports.


[Superintendent of Education John] White said the money will have two benefits. He said it will allow the states to offer seats to an additional 4,580 4-year-olds. Also, White said the grant will allow another 5,954 children to attend classes run by college-educated teachers, which will address the problem of uneven quality in pre-K classes. “Nearly 5,000 children who never would have been served will be served,” he said. “Nearly 6,000 children who would not have been served in a quality environment will be served in a quality environment,” White said. “It is not enough but it is a huge step forward.”


The state almost didn’t apply for the grant in October when the scuffle over Common Core led to a series of politically-charged letters between White and Gov. Bobby Jindal.


No more billing rape victims

After a Times-Picayune investigation earlier this year found that rape victims were being billed for forensic exams and other services led to a public outcry, Gov. Bobby Jindal vowed his administration would take action. On Tuesday the governor issued an executive order to ensure that the state, not survivors of sexual assault, would cover the cost of rape kits. As reports:


Jindal’s latest order assigns tasks to three state agencies — the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement, the Department of Health and Hospitals and the Department of Public Safety — and aims to provide relief to sexual assault survivors between now and the start of Louisiana’s next legislative session in April, when lawmakers hope to achieve a more permanent solution. “We wanted to do whatever we could now, before the session,” Stafford Palmieri, Jindal’s assistant chief of staff, said Monday night. “It will be followed up by a bill or several bills.”


Number of the Day:
15,100 – Decline, since 2006, in number of low-income children in Louisiana served through the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant  (Source: CLASP)