Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Budget cuts could kill 300 LSU faculty jobs; Gill: TOPS soars as universities founder; Common core opponents want special meeting and; How the GOP would replace the Affordable Care Act

Budget cuts could kill 300 LSU faculty jobs
Louisiana’s flagship university could lose 300 faculty jobs and 40 percent of its operating budget if cuts to higher education go through as planned, LSU Chancellor F. King Alexander said this week. That would be devastating for a campus that already ranks 46th among the 50 state flagship universities in per-pupil spending, reports.

Alexander says he is communicating with faculty and staff on campus this week. He has a simple message to them: Don’t panic. “We’re working on this every day to see what we can do,” Alexander said. “One of the ways is to provide greater university autonomy so the state can take the strings off of us and give us some freedoms that will help us save some money and generate some money,” Alexander said, adding that this is one of the many avenues they’re looking into.


Gill: TOPS soars as universities founder
As public colleges and universities brace for draconian budget cuts, the cost of Louisiana’s free college scholarship program continues to soar unabated. The TOPS program is projected to balloon to $250 million next year, as universities raise tuition to partly make up for the loss of state funds.  Advocate columnist James Gill questions  if the money is well spent.

TOPS pays tuition at state colleges and trade schools, while students may use scholarship money to meet some of the costs at private institutions. There is no means test, and no great academic prowess is required to qualify; an ACT score of 20, and a GPA of 2.5 will do it. Kids lose their grants if they fail to keep their grades up at college, and more than 40 percent fall by the wayside, with half of that number flunking out in the first year. TOPS money never has to be repaid, however.


Common core opponents want special meeting

Opponents of Common Core want the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to hold a special meeting for parents and teachers to voice their concern over the Common Core assessments scheduled for March and to clarify what happens if children “opt out” of the high-stakes tests. BESE President Chas Roemer is opposed, and told that opponents’ concerns can be aired at BESE’s regularly scheduled meetings.

“[The test] is part of the backbone of our accountability,” said Roemer in an interview, “It is irresponsible for the governor, on the eve of test-taking, to fan the flames.” Yet if families refuse to the Common Core test in large numbers, it could cause complications for the state’s accountability system. Those students who refuse to take the test would register a score of zero. So if lots of children “opt out” of the assessment, their zeros could end up skewing the overall assessment results for their home school or district, said critics of the test. Schools that earn failing grades are more likely to be taken over by the state.


How the GOP would replace the Affordable Care Act
With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) facing another Supreme Court challenge later this year, Republicans are working on a proposal to replace the law, the Washington Post reports. An estimated 8.2 million people would lose their health coverage if the high court rule against subsidies for federally-run health insurance exchanges, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates. Republicans are undecided as to what their next move would be should the subsidies be overturned.

A proposed replacement plan advanced by high-ranking Republicans in the House and Senate calls for abolishing the individual mandate that is at the heart of the ACA. It also would allow insurers to consider pre-existing conditions if a person’s coverage has lapsed for a few months, cap the tax preference for employer health plans and provide less generous subsidies for people with low incomes. The expansion of Medicaid to cover working adults up to 138 percent of the poverty line would be abolished. Still, some aspects of the current law would be kept.

Young adults can stay on their parents’ health plans until they turn 26, and the ban on lifetime coverage limits remains. Instead of allowing insurers to charge older customers no more than three times the amount what they charge younger customers for the same plan, that ratio is widened to 5:1, which means cheaper premiums for younger enrollees. The GOP plan also keeps the ACA’s $700 billion in Medicare cuts, as previous House budgets have done. There are no official estimates yet of what this would cost or how many people it would cover. But the plan’s authors claim it will be “competitive in terms of coverage” when compared to the ACA and cost less.


Number of the Day

$250 million – Anticipated cost of the TOPS program next year (Source: The Advocate)