New investments in early childhood

New investments in early childhood

Louisiana’s top school board on Wednesday approved $700,000 aimed at giving local leaders the tools and resources to improve access to early childhood education. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed to allocate funds to seven pilot programs in the state, called Ready Start Community Networks, which will determine the best statewide education practices for children from birth to age 5. The Advocate’s Will Sentell explains how the money could be used:

“This is one of the last pieces of the puzzle,” Melanie Bronfin, executive director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, told a committee of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday. … The pilot projects are supposed to give local leaders a bigger voice in child care improvements, including resources to improve the quality of local sites. “We have had lead agencies but we have had not the real structures that bring together all the providers at the local level and all the important stakeholders to make decisions around this part of education,” Bronfin told BESE. “It is very exciting to be doing this,” she added. “Other states have these kinds of structures in place.”


New Orleans City Council to vote on housing crisis ordinance
The New Orleans City Council will vote Thursday on legislation that is aimed at addressing the city’s affordable housing crisis. The Smart Housing Mix ordinance would secure housing for residents by ensuring that new developments include units that locals can afford. Half of New Orleans households already pay more than 30 percent or more of their income on housing, which is is causing many residents, especially people of color, to be priced out of their homes. Flozell Daniels, writing in a guest column for Picayune details the urgency:

So, the good news is that, not only do we have the chance right now to do something different, but we also already have a well-researched plan — and it will work if done intentionally. After years of additional study and discussion, the City Council has everything it needs to move towards full implementation of the Smart Housing Mix, a strategy that will guarantee the creation of safe, equitable and affordable housing near the jobs that power this city. With most of our neighbors working in low-to-moderate paying industries, and with our steady increase in housing costs, this is a critical issue to address in defense of our city’s very near future.


Pay secrecy can help solve the pay gap
Equal pay for equal work is a major problem that states must tackle – nowhere more so than in Louisiana. A way to start to solve this problem is by ending pay secrecy. There is a lack of transparency in salaries and salary negotiations. Allowing employees to discuss their pay without the fear of retaliation would help close the inequities in pay.  Kristin Wong of the New York Times has more:

Transparency isn’t just about business bottom line, however. Researchers say transparency is important because keeping salaries secret reinforces discrimination. “From a worker’s perspective, without accurate information about peer compensation, they may not know when they’re being underpaid,” said Emiliano Huet-Vaughn, an economist at U.C.L.A. who ran a study in 2013 that found workers are more productive when salary is transparent. Without knowing what other workers’ salaries look like, “it naturally becomes harder to make the case that one is suffering a form of pay discrimination,” Dr. Huet-Vaughn said. For example, in 2017, the Department of Labor filed a lawsuit and investigation against Google. Their regional director Janette Wipper told the Guardian, “discrimination against women in Google is quite extreme, even in this industry.” The suit claimed that Google refused to disclose data on employee salary history, as required by equal opportunity laws.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has called for a ban on “pay secrecy” as part of his efforts to reduce the state’s chronic gender pay gap.


America’s uninsured rate is rising
Policy decisions by President Donald Trump’s administration appear to be reversing the gains made by the Obama administration to decrease the national uninsured rate, according to new polling from Gallup. According to the Gallup, there was an increase of more than three million people between the first quarter of 2018 and the end of the year, which was a four-year high. Margot Sanger-Katz, writing for the New York Times’ Upshot Blog breaks it down:

“There’s no question that some of the reductions in the uninsured rate that we have measured over the course of Obamacare has now been given back,” said Dan Witters, the research director for the survey. That may not be a surprise given the White House’s approach to health policy. It has consistently criticized the Affordable Care Act. And it has sought to weaken it legally, pulling back on funding to publicize coverage opportunities, and approving policies that make it harder for eligible people to enroll and stay enrolled in state Medicaid programs. The administration has signaled that the use of certain public health insurance programs, like Medicaid, might count against immigrants applying for green cards. Other, more complex policy changes increased the cost of individual health insurance last year, although prices were on track to fall slightly, on average, this year.

Here in Louisiana, the uninsured rate has been cut in half with the expansion of Medicaid and is now below the national average.


Number of the Day
1.3 – Estimated percentage point increase of uninsured adults in 2018. (Source: Gallup)