The House Education Committee has rejected a $39 million boost for K-12 schools recommended by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, and asked the state education board to rework the Minimum Foundation Program formula that funds public education. Republicans in the committee cited prioritizing teacher pay raises, funding early childhood education and unknown revenue as the reason they would like BESE to remove the $39 million. The money would have represented only the second increase in per-pupil spending since 2008. Will Sentell of The Advocate has more:
Returning the issue to BESE on the second week of the two-month session is unusual. It also reflects an ongoing dispute between Edwards and House Republican leaders on how much money will be available for state services. Committee member state Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, said Louisiana is already spending near the U.S. average for public school students — $12,153. Without returning the issue to BESE, Edmonds said, there will likely be few new dollars for another priority — early childhood education.
Education groups are concerned that without additional money for school districts, the $1,000 raise for teachers and $500 for support staff will be eaten up by higher out-of-pocket costs for benefits and purchasing classroom supplies as schools will not have the money to fund classroom necessities.
Retirement is a luxury for Louisiana’s working poor
Extremely low incomes and little access to jobs with retirement benefits has trapped the large and aging predominantly African American/Creole population of Opelousas into poverty, according to a new article by The Nation. The article compares Opelousas to Ogden, Utah. Lanner Keller of The Advocate discusses this article:
“Seventy-seven percent African-American and Creole, Opelousas is home to men and women who have worked all their lives, but mostly in jobs that provided no benefits at all — retirement or otherwise,” wrote Katherine S. Newman and Rebecca Hayes Jacobs. “In 2017, per capita income in Opelousas was only $15,266 a year, and 45.3 percent of its population was living in poverty. “Few residents were entitled to sick leave or health care coverage while they were working, and virtually none can count on a pension to support them when they reach retirement age. A lifetime of poverty never translates into what the rest of the country defines as true retirement. Instead, the working poor stay on the job until they are ready to drop.”
Both cities have strong faith-based communities – Catholicism in Opelousas and Latter Day Saints in Ogden – but religious services and philanthropy can only do so much for a community with extreme wealth disparities and high poverty.
“Both have faith-based efforts, but it is, of course, inevitable that without private-sector pensions, too many in Opelousas will not only be poor while they live, but work until they drop and never ‘retire’ in the American Dream sense,” Newman and Jacobs write. “It’s not reasonable to expect churches to replace the sense of common purpose, and mutual support, that was the hallmark of the old stakeholder capitalism that once put the interests of society ahead of quarterly returns.”
Burdensome occupational licensing is a barrier to employment
Louisiana has some of the most burdensome occupational licensing practices in the country. And while occupational licensing can ensure certain standards for professionals in some fields, its overutilization is often a barrier to employment for low-income and recently incarcerated individuals. A new report by Andrew Fitzgerald and Brooke Hathaway of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber break this down:
The Capital Area ReEntry Coalition estimates that approximately 3,000 released inmates take up private residence in the Baton Rouge Area each year. These previously incarcerated residents may be denied occupational licenses because of felony and “good character” provisions in licensure rules. They may desire to work in occupations that do not involve health or public safety but are disallowed from doing so; the morality requirements make employment in many low-skilled professions unlawful. In a perverse twist, obeying state licensure rules and foregoing employment opportunities may put this group at a higher risk of recidivism. In addition, a 2017 study estimated that as of 2010, between 17 and 22 percent of African American adults in Louisiana are currently serving time for felonies or are ex-felons. As a result, one in five African American adults may be denied the ability to work in low-skill jobs by licensing boards whose rules include felony or “good character” provisions. This barrier decreases their employment opportunities overall, and directly raises the chances of recidivism. Taken alone, this concern over access to employment bolsters the case for occupational licensure reform.
Who benefits from school choice?
Many charter schools use lottery systems to prevent their schools from hand-picking students, as charter schools are often required to have student bodies that reflect the community they serve. However, charter schools can employ subtle tactics to skew the applicant pool by marketing in certain neighborhoods – or as The Brookings Institute uncovered, not responding to inquiring parents whose children have behavioral issues or learning disabilities. Peter Bergman and Isaac McFarlin, Jr. have more:
To test whether this was happening, we sent emails posing as parents of potential students to schools. In each email, the fictitious parent asked whether his or her child was eligible to apply to the school and how to apply. In total, we sent emails to 6,452 schools (both charters and traditional public schools) from the largest 40 school districts in 29 states and the District of Columbia, all of which have intra-district school choice. We sent two different emails to each school three to four weeks apart, and no school received the same message twice. … Overall, there were similar response rates across charter schools and traditional public schools. However, charter schools were 6 percentage points less likely than traditional public schools to respond to emails from parents of a child with an IEP. In particular, we identified 272 “no-excuses” charter schools, which tend to be higher performing, in the sample. These schools were 10 percentage points less likely to respond to messages signaling an IEP than traditional public schools.
This study showed a concerning and likely unintended consequence of school choice. Both traditional and charter schools in school-choice districts were less likely to respond to emails of parents with students who indicated their students would be harder and more costly to educate – perhaps because they figure that parents would seek out another school if they received no response.
Number of the Day
$5,337 – The amount Louisiana would be spending minimum per pupil in 2020 if the annual 2.75 percent MFP increase was never eliminated. (Source: Louisiana Budget Project)