Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A poverty solution everyone can agree on; Veteran homes need greater oversight; Common Core losing popularity and; Lawsuit may challenge Caddo jury selection

A poverty solution everyone can agree on
The Earned Income Tax Credit is a tax credit for working families that has lifted more than 10 million people out of poverty, according to University of California economist Hilary Hoynes and the Treasury Department’s Ankur Patel. Many states provide an EITC match, but Louisiana’s match is the lowest in the nation at 3.5 percent of the federal credit. The average for a state EITC match is 16 percent. The EITC incentivizes work, boosts the income of hard working families struggling to make ends meet, and has long enjoyed broad bipartisan support. But Cass Sunstein, writing in Bloomberg View, reports that research shows the benefits of the credit are even broader than many people realize:


The EITC has also had a series of secondary benefits. It is associated with reductions in cardiovascular diseases and metabolic disorders among mothers; with significantly reduced levels of premature births and low birth weight; with higher test scores for elementary- and middle-school children; and with increases in the likelihood of college attendance. As an antipoverty program, the earned income tax credit is far more effective than the minimum wage. Economists continue to dispute whether modest increases in the minimum wage will decrease employment. But if the goal is to boost employment, no one thinks the minimum wage is an especially good idea. The EITC is much better on that count, too.


Sunstein also recommends reforms to strengthen the EITC:


It should be expanded in three ways. First, the credit is unavailable to childless people under 25. That’s a serious gap. Within this age group, labor-force participation remains low; the EITC would provide valuable economic help and also a spur to find jobs. It should be available to anyone over 21. Second, the EITC is unacceptably small for people without children and for noncustodial parents. For example, a $496 ceiling in the credit for this group is far too low. It should be tripled. Third, raising the credit across the board (say, by 8 percent) would pay big social dividends. Such increases would not only provide greater help to working Americans who are really struggling, but also boost employment, improve the health of both children and mothers, and, in the long run, increase educational attainment as well. Many issues divide reasonable people. The earned income tax credit isn’t one of them. Let’s build on what’s working.


Veteran homes need greater oversight
The Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t doing a very good job overseeing state institutions that provide nursing and other long-term care services for veterans,  according to a new report by the Legislative Auditor. The auditor reviewed veteran homes in Bossier City, Jackson, Jennings, Monroe and Reserve from 2012 through 2014. As the Associated Press reports, 27 percent of quality reviews examined by the auditor included examples of noncompliance with federal standards. Worse, half of those lacked a corrective action plan.


For example, among the deficiencies found by federal VA reviews: the Bossier City home didn’t make sure care plans provided adequate supervision to prevent accidents for some residents identified at high-risk for falls; the Jackson home didn’t follow up on a resident’s allegation of molestation; and a resident at the Monroe home fell 22 times within an 11-month period with little evidence the cause of the falls was investigated. In addition, the audit says Louisiana’s veteran homes spent $7.7 million on health service contracts during a three-year period, but never asked to see progress reports or other data to track the contractors’ work.


Common Core losing popularity
A new survey found national support for the controversial Common Core standards has dropped by 25 percent in the past two years. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports that increasing disapproval of the new benchmarks among teachers is a key reason for the drop in support, according to research by Education Next and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government:
Asked about the results Hollis Milton, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said in an email that some educators were frustrated over how the benchmarks were implemented. “Training and resources from the state came long after we started teaching the standards,” said Milton, who is superintendent of the West Feliciana Parish School District. … The same survey said 25 percent of respondents favor allowing parents to let their children skip annual math and reading exams while 59 percent oppose it. Earlier this year, around 1 percent of Louisiana students in grades 3-8 skipped Common Core tests, sparking controversy on how the action would affect school and district letter grades.


Lawsuit may challenge Caddo jury selection

Yesterday, the Daily Dime reported on a disturbing study that found massive racial disparities in the makeup of juries in Caddo Parish. Caddo also has garnered recent attention for sentencing more people to death per capita than any other jurisdiction in America –  again with shocking racial disparities. Now, a civil rights law firm is threatening a lawsuit, reports the Associated Press:


The MacArthur Justice Foundation on Monday released a copy of a letter it sent to Caddo Parish Acting District Attorney Dale Cox, advising him of the possibility of a lawsuit and demanding that his office preserve documents that might be used as evidence in such a suit….”The data shows that the District Attorney’s Office, over the course of two different District Attorneys, has struck eligible African-American jurors three times more frequently than other jurors,” Jim Craig, co-director of MacArthur’s New Orleans office, said in a news release. The study cited data from 332 juries empaneled between Jan. 28, 2003, and Dec. 5, 2012. It said that in juries with two or fewer black members, there were no acquittals. The acquittal rate for juries with three or more black jurors was 12 percent. “We deny (the allegations) categorically,” Cox said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press later Monday.


Number of the Day

5 million – The number of children lifted out of poverty due to the Earned Income Tax Credit (Source: Bloomberg View)