Gov. John Bel Edwards and dozens of legislators have said that a teacher pay raise is a top priority for the upcoming legislative session. But nothing can happen until House Speaker Taylor Barras agrees to resolve an ongoing dispute about revenue estimates. Teachers from Barras’ home base in Iberia Parish met with him this week to push him on the issue, KLFY’s Caroline Marcello has more:
“We are just trying to get a pay raise for every public school educator,” says Cammie Maturin, a member of the Iberia Parish Association of Educators. When asked if she thinks a raise is well deserved she said, “It’s overdue.” Maturin and others with the Iberia Parish Association of Educators want answers from Barras as to why a budget that includes a pay raise for public school teachers hasn’t been approved. “He is the only one, and it is a bipartisan effort, but he is the only one that keeps voting it down no matter what representative he sends there, it’s a no vote in his seat,” Maturin said. The raise would mean $1,000 more for teachers and $500 more for support staff per year. “Once you divide by 12 months and take everything out that’s probably about $40 a month,” Maturin said. “Which isn’t a whole lot of a raise, but it’s more than what we’ve seen in 12 years.” After the meeting with the teachers Barras said he was open to having a conversation about the raises. He said he wants to see exactly where the money will go and how the Department of Education will appropriate those funds. He says right now it is not specific enough for him to approve a budget.
Teachers aren’t the only ones asking the speaker to recognize the available revenues. The Houma Today editorial board also weighed in:
Legislators are free to examine the budget proposal in detail and come up with alternative measures. They might think that Edwards’ budget sets the wrong priorities for the state or spends too much on certain expenses. That is fine. There should be healthy and spirited debate over how the state spends tens of billions of dollars. Under this plan, though, at least the legislators will be debating these issues based on the best available forecast rather than clinging to one that nearly everyone agrees is outdated. Edwards was smart to go ahead with the budget on the assumption that the forecast will eventually be updated – even if that process has been unduly delayed by Barras.
Wage inequality continues to grow
As the U.S. economy continues to grow and wages are starting to rise at all income levels, economic inequality continues to increase as the biggest gains accrue to those at the top. That is one of the key takeaways from a new report by Elise Gould with the Economic Policy Institute, which contains a mixture of good and bad news for workers who are struggling to make ends meet:
The data show not only rising inequality in general, but also the persistence, and in some cases worsening, of wage gaps by gender and race. What also stands out in this last year of data is that, while wages are growing for most workers, wage growth continues to be slower than would be expected in an economy with relatively low unemployment. Given this slow wage growth, policymakers should not presume that the economy has already achieved (or even surpassed, as some claim) full employment. Instead, policymakers should try to keep labor markets as tight as possible for as long as possible to see if wage growth lost during the Great Recession can be clawed back, and to see if wage disparities by gender and race can be reduced.
The racial funding gap for schools
Sixty-four years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public school segregation is unconstitutional, there continues to be a wide gap between the resources provided to mostly white schools and those with a predominantly non-white student body. The reason? Schools are largely financed with property tax revenues, which tend to be higher in white areas. A new report by EdBuild pegs the national funding gap at $23 billion. The Washington Post’s Laura Meckler reports:
EdBuild examined the nation’s 13,000 traditional public school districts and found about 7,600 where more than 75 percent of students were white, and about 1,200 where more than 75 percent of students were not white. The nonwhite districts, which included many large cities, were much larger than the white districts, which included many small rural areas. But the two groups each had about the same number of students — 12.8 million children in nonwhite districts and 12.5 million in white districts. Nonwhite districts took in about $54 billion in 2016 in local tax dollars — or about $4,500 per student. White districts, home to higher incomes and less poverty, collected more than $77 billion, or just over $7,000 per student. On average, states added another $6,900 per student to white districts and almost $7,200 per student in nonwhite districts. But the overall gap in state and local funding was $23 billion. White districts, on average, had more than $2,000 more in funding per student than nonwhite districts.
Medicaid contracts up for bid
The Louisiana Department of Health has launched a long-awaited process to select the private managed-care companies that will oversee the health care delivered to 1.5 million Medicaid recipients. The current multibillion-dollar deals were negotiated under former Gov. Bobby Jindal and are due to expire at the end of the year. As the AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports, a lot is at stake:
Critics say that under the existing contracts, the managed-care companies aren’t closely tracked to ensure proper spending in the more than $12 billion Medicaid program and that not enough is done to punish poor performance. Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration pledged to make changes in the next round of contracts. “Our managed-care organizations are expected to demonstrate innovation. There should be an increased focus on health equity and social determinants of health,” Health Secretary Rebekah Gee said in a statement Monday. “The managed-care organizations will be expected to work with each enrollee to drive behavior change and encourage health choices.”
Programming Note: Louisiana Public Broadcasting takes an in-depth look at the merits of raising the state minimum wage in its “Louisiana Public Square” program, which includes interviews with LBP’s Jan Moller and audience questions from LBP’s Davante Lewis and Danny Mintz. It airs tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m. Click here for more details.
Number of the Day
$7 million – Potential subsidy from Louisiana taxpayers for “The Green Book,” which won this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture and was shot in the state. (Source: The Advocate)