The farm bill conference committee met on Wednesday with the goal of combining two competing versions of the comprehensive legislation from the House and Senate. A main point of contention is whether to impose punitive work requirements on recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. In an interview with KNOE, Louisiana’s Rep. Ralph Abraham doubled down on his support for this misguided approach, despite data showing that 85 percent of food-insecure households with children are headed by working parents. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Kristin F. Butcher and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach explain the realities for working households receiving SNAP:
A large share of the people who would face work requirements are employed, but they also experience high levels of job displacement and unemployment, and their wages have grown little, as our analysis of the low-wage labor market shows. An understanding of the labor market that SNAP and Medicaid beneficiaries face makes clear that it will be difficult for many individuals and families to meet proposed work requirements. Depending on the details of the work requirements, it also may be quite administratively burdensome to monitor them.
Click here to send a letter to your members of Congress asking them to protect and strengthen SNAP in the ongoing farm bill negotiations.
Pushing back against ‘holistic admissions’
A prominent member of the LSU Board of Regents is pushing back against the university’s decision to de-emphasize college aptitude tests such as the ACT in deciding which applicants to admit. Baton Rouge firearms mogul Richard Lipsey, speaking through his Put Louisiana First political organization, says the change amounts to lowering standards for the state’s flagship campus. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports:
A shift from purely objective standards to one requiring more subjectivity is dangerous in a state as politically oriented as Louisiana, Lipsey said. One of the key criticisms to policy nationally is that administrators have used “holistic admissions” cover when admitting the poorly qualified children of big donors and political wheels. “He is opening the door for chaos,” Lipsey said. Lipsey said he is not speaking in any official capacity as a member and former chairman of the board that oversees all higher public education systems in the state.
LSU President F. King Alexander responded to the criticism in a letter to The Advocate:
There have been some recent rumblings against the holistic admissions approach, despite the fact that it is used by 80 percent of flagship universities as well as all but two of the nation’s top 50 public universities, including many of our aspirational peers like UNC-Chapel Hill, UT-Austin, UCLA, and the Universities of Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Berkeley. In short, holistic review doesn’t lessen our admission standards. It actually increases the level of scrutiny a potential student receives by introducing more than two data points into their evaluation. Change is often difficult to accept, but that doesn’t make it wrong, especially when it is grounded in extensive research in student achievement and predictors of long-term success. As is the case with most processes, admission standards continue to evolve as experts continue to better understand true indicators of student success. But it cannot be overstated: the modern approach to successful admissions in today’s top-tier research university is holistic review.
The middle-class safety net
Most people link programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to families living in poverty. But an increasing share of spending on safety-net programs goes to families above the federal poverty line. For example, a quarter of the spending for SNAP goes to families in the second quintile of income (a family of three with an income between $36,600 and $62,900). Moreover, most Medicaid spending now goes to families above the lowest quintile (a family of three with an income of $36,600). Richard R. Reeves and Christopher Pulliam of Brookings look at the safety-net spending on middle-class families and highlights some alternatives:
Rather than expanding the safety net, which by definition is likely to provide only modest support, a more promising solution is to exert concerted policy efforts to raise wages and invest in the human capital of middle-class families. In her forthcoming book, The Forgotten Americans, our colleague Isabel Sawhill proposes several policies to raise middle-class wages, including tax credits for companies who train and share profits with their employees. Sawhill also calls for wage insurance to help workers adjust to the changing economy and more funding for career and technical education to increase human capital. Sawhill’s intuition is that in the long run, investing in, rather than subsidizing, middle-class families is likely to prove a better path to promoting long-term economic growth, and indeed broader social equity.
Age not a factor in declining teacher salaries
As summer unofficially ended after the Labor Day weekend, teacher strikes and protests will undoubtedly come back into the national spotlight. The discontent among educators stems from low teacher pay, eroding pensions, and inadequate funding for education overall. Regarding teacher pay, some incorrectly argue that the decline in average teacher salaries is the result of many well-paid baby boomers being replaced by young millennials in the classroom. Michael Hansen of Brookings dispels this myth.
Surprisingly, if we consider teacher characteristics alone, we should actually have expected teacher salaries to rise—not fall—over the period of the Great Recession. In other words, teachers are even more qualified after the recession, based on these metrics. For example, I found the average teacher age is about three months older in 2016 than what was reported in 2007. Perhaps the Great Recession made baby boomers nervous about retiring, or maybe tight budgets have slowed the replacement by millennials. Beyond age, teachers in the data report having significantly higher levels of master’s (54 percent) and doctoral degrees (4.5 percent) than what they did in 2007 (49 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively). Combined, these characteristics suggest we should actually be paying teachers about 1 percent more after the recession if we didn’t change compensation in other ways.
Number of the Day
15 million – Number of households that struggled to afford enough food in 2017, including more than 10 million households with income above the federal poverty line. (Source: USDA)