A scathing audit released Monday found that the Louisiana Department of Education does a slipshod job of overseeing private child-care providers in the state, and often fails to follow national “best practices.” The report by Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera found that the education department lacks an effective process to investigate child care complaints, and that Louisiana is one of a handful of states that allow in-home caregivers to care for more than six children without a license. Agency officials agreed with the findings, but stated that they are working to move Louisiana closer to national standards. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports:
Purpera’s review said the agency does not centrally track child care complaints and does not consistently document whether the complaints were substantiated. During a 12-month period from 2016-17, one department record showed that 8.2 percent of complaints were backed up while another record said 19 percent were. In addition, the agency’s time frame for checking hotline and other complaints is longer than best practices recommend and even then department officials fail to follow their own procedures. Reports of a death are supposed to be checked within five days, children mysteriously showing bruises within 10 days and questions about supervision within 30 days. But nearly one out of three complaints – 32 percent – were not checked within the department’s own time-frame – 251 cases, according to the audit. Also, the department lacks a formal process to investigate complaints on family providers and needs to make unannounced inspections, Purpera said.
Fighting against workplace abuse in Louisiana’s seafood industry
Undocumented workers in Louisiana’s seafood industry face the threat of serious bodily injury, sexual harassment and police brutality, often with no legal recourse. But that may be changing, as workers have organized to push for better working conditions, higher wages and the reinstatement of past employees who were fired for promoting such practices. The Guardian’s Mike Elk reports on these efforts and how undocumented workers joined with local communities to achieve a common goal.
Formed in 2017 as an offshoot of organizing being done by the National Guestworker Alliance and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice the Seafood Workers Alliance has hundreds of members in 15 different plants throughout Louisiana. The organization has focused heavily on suing employers and building alliances with local communities so that workers can help push back when they face abuses in the workplace. They’ve built deep ties in particular with the African American community. Often, low wage employers have attempted to pit low wage African American workers against Latino workers, who many saw as coming to Louisiana to take their jobs. Through combined struggle, the workers have learned that, while their struggles are different, their problems both with local employers and enforcement are similar.
Tax cuts are not paying for themselves
The federal budget deficit ballooned to $779 billion in the 2018 fiscal year, despite strong economic growth. That is highly unusual, since budget deficits usually shrink during periods of economic expansion. There is an easy explanation for this anomaly, of course: The massive corporate tax cut passed late last year, combined with increased spending on the military and some domestic programs. The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein reports:
“What’s going on is revenues are not rising when they otherwise would be,” said Marc Goldwein, senior vice president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “The economy is growing by 5 to 6 percent, and revenue is basically flat.” Business tax revenue was depressed in part because the Republican tax law passed in the fall of 2017 reduced the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, among other changes. The federal deficit was $665 billion in 2017, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Federal spending also rose in 2018, with increases in spending on Social Security, the military and interest payments, among other key expenses, according to Goldwein. Real wages grew by 1.4 percent and household income grew by 1.8 percent, according to the report released by the Treasury Department and Office of Management and Budget. The federal deficit is a measure of the gap between the amount of money the nation spends and the amount it takes in. Closing the federal deficit requires either raising taxes, cutting the defense budget or lowering spending on social programs that protect the poor and elderly, such as Medicare and Social Security.
Tuition increases disproportionately affect black students
A college degree is the best way to achieve social mobility. But in Louisiana, this path has become much harder as the state has led the nation in shifting the burden of paying for college onto the shoulders of students and their families. These tuition increases disproportionately affect black students. Average tuition and fees at a public four-year university accounted for 32 percent of median household income for black families in Louisiana according to a new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This compares to 16 percent of median household income for white families. The Advocate editorial board looks at the the barriers these tuition increases are erecting and possible solutions.
The good news is that Louisiana is providing more access to two-year community colleges and technical education, a typically cheaper entry into post-high-school education. Further, Education Superintendent John White has made it a cause to push all students in high schools to complete the federal student aid application. That provides not only a practical avenue for aid but a nudge for students, even in poorer families, to contemplate education beyond high school. But the dramatic increase in tuition and fees at colleges is a real barrier, despite commendable efforts to both generate more qualified students from high schools but also provide more need-based aid for qualified applicants to colleges. That is why tuition increases alone are not the solution to money woes in colleges, for they greatly burden students from poorer families. State aid to colleges, so sharply reduced in Louisiana over a decade, give college leaders less and less flexibility to fund the support services that will make a difference for students from poorer families.
Number of the Day
$34 – Average savings for a monthly health insurance premium for the second-lowest-cost silver plan for a person in Louisiana, compared to the national average. (Source: The Advocate)