Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

K+10: Many black New Orleanians are still underwater; NOLA “living wage” ordinance is now law; Public hearings on Common Core begin today and; LaTrac website gets an “A”

K+10: Many black New Orleanians are still underwater

From The New York Times’ Gary Rivlin comes a lengthy, in-depth story about the uneven post-Katrina recovery. Told through the eyes of Liberty Bank founder Alden McDonald, it explains how large parts of predominantly black eastern parts of New Orleans have been left behind by the decade-long rebuilding effort.


There, the recovery is far from complete — and in some areas things are worse than before the storm. In this frustration, he represents what might be called the black Katrina narrative, a counterpoint to the jubilant accounts of Landrieu and other New Orleans boosters. This version of the story begins by noting that an African-American homeowner was more than three times more likely than a white one to live in a flooded part of town. Where Landrieu sees black and white coming together, many African-Americans recollect a different New Orleans: rifle-carrying sheriffs and police officers barricading a bridge out of an overwhelmed city because they didn’t want the largely black crowds walking through their predominantly white suburbs; a white congressman overheard saying that God had finally accomplished what others couldn’t by clearing out public housing; a prominent resident from the Uptown part of the city telling a Wall Street Journal reporter that in rebuilding, things would be ‘‘done in a completely different way, demographically, geographically and politically’’ — or he and his friends weren’t moving back.


NOLA “living wage” ordinance is now law

All city contractors in New Orleans will be required to pay their workers at least $10.55 per hour and provide at least seven days of annual paid sick leave under a “living wage” ordinance signed into law by Mayor Mitch Landrieu. The Advocate reports:


“If you’re working full-time, you should not be living below the poverty line,” [Mayor Mitch] Landrieu said. The ordinance, which was sponsored by City Councilman Jared Brossett, will apply to city contractors with contracts worth at least $25,000 and to companies or organizations that receive more than $100,000 in financial assistance from the city, including subsidies and tax breaks, over a 12-month period. The required wage will rise with inflation, and companies that pay their workers more than 30 percent above the base wage will be exempt from the sick leave requirement. State law prevents the city from setting its own minimum wage, so the lowest wage for workers in the private sector in New Orleans is the federal rate of $7.25 an hour. However, the city is able to control the wages of its employees and contractors, and Brossett’s measure — passed 6-0 this month — came after the Landrieu administration last year raised the pay for the lowest-paid city employees to $10.10 an hour.


Public hearings on Common Core begin today

Louisianans will have an opportunity to air opinions about Common Core standards today in a public hearing in Baton Rouge, the first of six scheduled statewide hearings. The controversial education standards have been the subject of numerous policy, legal, and political fights in recent years. Earlier this year, a legislative compromise created the review process. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports:


Four panels composed mostly of educators will gather for a six-hour session to review the math, English and writing benchmarks that have triggered bitter arguments since 2013. The mission? “Making sure that the Common Core standards will fit the needs of our Louisiana students, educators, citizens and parents,” said Regina Sanford, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for the St. Tammany Parish school system. Sanford heads the Standards Committee, a 26-member panel of teachers, principals and others who will oversee the review and make recommendations to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Feb. 2. Three subcommittees of 29 members each will tackle the nitty-gritty of the standards and submit their findings to the Standards Committee. The subcommittees cover kindergarten through second grade; English language arts for grades three through 12; and math for grades three through 12. Three of every four subcommittee members are educators. The review stems from action by BESE and the Legislature, which in June finalized a three-bill package aimed at curbing the seemingly endless debate over Common Core.


LaTrac website gets an “A”

The Advocate’s editorial board praises the work of LaTrac, the Louisiana Transparency and Accountability website.  LaTrac’s primary mission is to make Louisiana’s state government finances and operations transparent and accountable to Louisiana’s citizens. The Advocate writes:


While occasions to do it are too rare, we are always delighted when Louisiana is near the top of the pack in something, and so the state’s Division of Administration deserves a pat on the back for its LaTrac website. What is it? It is what is called a “checkbook” site, outlining in great detail the money that state government spends. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group has graded Louisiana’s site as one of the best in the country, again. LaTrac has been in operation for several years, and we commend the division, the state’s financial and management arm, for continuing to look at ways to improve it. The user can search contracts and budgets, salaries and payments for employees and agencies. It’s a vast trove of information about how money is spent. There’s a report on the spending of the federal “stimulus” funds granted to the state during the Obama administration, because that had an impact on Louisiana’s budget.


Number of the Day

1,900 – Square miles of Louisiana coastline that have eroded into the Gulf of Mexico since the 1930’s.  Total cost of coastal restoration is estimated at $100 million.  (Source: The Advocate)