Prioritizing early care and education

Prioritizing early care and education

Supporting early care and education should be a priority of both legislators and the business community in Louisiana. That was the message participants heard from presenters at a one-day conference sponsored by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

Number of the Day

17- Number of international tax haven subsidiaries used by Louisiana-based CenturyLink (Source: The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and U.S. PIRG)

Supporting early care and education should be a priority of both legislators and the business community in Louisiana. That was the message participants heard from presenters at a one-day conference sponsored by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. A speaker from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce cited a Federal Reserve study that showed a $16 return on every dollar spent on high-quality early care and education. The study noted that availability of affordable early care and education reduces overall employee costs for businesses, increases state tax revenue and employee wages, while improving short term and long term measures of childhood well-being. Timothy Boone at The Advocate has more:

According to a report released Wednesday by the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, a nonpartisan group that focuses on issues facing preschoolers, along with LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab, child care issues cost businesses and organizations $816 million a year in employee absences and worker turnover. This is causing the state to miss out on nearly $84 million a year in tax revenue because of the lost employee wages. Of the more than 250 Louisiana parents who were polled for the survey, nearly 41 percent said in the past three months they missed at least one day of work because of child care issues, and more than 42 percent said they had to leave work early.

 

DCFS needs funds to meet standards

The Department of Children and Family Services has received significant budget cuts – close to $100 million in inflation-adjusted dollars – since the 2008 fiscal year. The Advocate’s editorial board lifts up the need for critical new investments in services that protect the well-being of Louisiana’s kids.

Between 2008 and 2016, DCFS’s workforce was cut by more than 600 positions — from about 1,800 to about 1,200. “Our caseloads have not gone down,” Walters [Secretary of the state Department of Children and Family Services] emphasized. “Let me be abundantly clear: they have gone up.” The Louisiana Legislative Auditor earlier this year found the department struggles with its high caseloads, staff turnover and outdated technology affected its ability to perform some basic reviews meant to ensure foster kids’ safety.

 

Charter schools in New Orleans not meeting goals

The open-enrollment charter schools that sprung up in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina laid out lofty goals for student achievements in their applications to the state. A review by The Hechinger Report’s Katy Reckdahl found that while some schools achieved impressive gains, none of the schools actually met their goals:

About one-third of applications were either unavailable for review or failed to include clear numerical academic goals. Of the 27 charters that listed clear goals in their applications, not one was able to reach them. Most charter operators did not come close to hitting their targets, predicting, for example, that they could move students from 50 percent proficiency to 80 or even 100 percent in four or five years. While seven of those 27 schools were able to reach 70 percent student proficiency in either English or math in 2016, none had attained 80 percent. (Though the state definition of proficiency is changing, for years proficiency was measured by how many students reached a passing, or “basic” score on the math and English portion of state tests.)

 

Strengthening the health marketplace

The bipartisan agreement between Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray includes policies that would strengthen the health care marketplace in the face of sabotage efforts led by President Donald Trump. Their legislation would guarantee cost-sharing reductions through 2019 and partially fund enrollment outreach and education. Bob Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, weighs in:

“… the agreement is only an initial and incomplete response to the Trump Administration’s actions to undermine the ACA marketplaces. Congress should provide an explicit permanent appropriation for CSR payments, not just funding for two years, to provide long-term certainty for insurers and consumers. The agreement also does not address the harmful actions foreshadowed by the Administration’s recent executive order, which could significantly increase premiums in the individual and small group markets, destabilize those markets, and undermine protections for people with pre-existing health conditions.

 

Impact of TOPS uncertainty

LSU president F. King Alexander voiced his concerns over the delayed funding decision on TOPS during the last legislative session, saying that Louisiana’s flagship university is losing top-tier students due to continued uncertainty. TOPS was fully funded for the last academic year, but only partially funded in the previous year. The Advocate’s Will Sentell explains.

He [Alexander] said LSU “took a hit”  on luring some top-flight students to campus because they got offers from other schools in January and February, before this year’s TOPS funding was decided by the Legislature and Gov. John Bel Edwards.”Our students and parents are held hostage until mid June,” Alexander said. “Let’s get TOPS settled and get it settled early.” Alexander said he is concerned that any savings from TOPS will be sent to the state’s general fund, not to other college and university operations.”We want to make sure the money comes back to higher education,” he told the group.

The uncertainty is likely to continue well into 2018. A legislative task force set up to provide recommendations on the future of TOPS, has not begun discussing substantive changes.

“From the witnesses and presentations I don’t see much change occurring,” said James Caillier, executive director of the Taylor Foundation, which is named after TOPS co-founder Patrick F. Taylor. State Sen. Blade Morrish, R-Jennings, chairman of the task force and the Senate Education Committee, made it clear from the outset that House and Senate lawmakers might or might not recommend major changes.

 

Number of the Day

17- Number of international tax haven subsidiaries used by Louisiana-based CenturyLink (Source: The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and U.S. PIRG)