The ongoing dispute between Louisiana education leaders and Republican legislators in the House shows no sign of ending after the state’s top school board elected to stand firmly behind its previous request for a $39 million increase for public schools. House Republicans want to include money for a $1,200 raise for teachers and half that amount for school support workers, but don’t want to provide money for school districts to help offset the rising cost of employee pensions. The Advocate’s Will Sentell has more:
No vote was taken, and none was required for BESE to stand by its previous request to the Legislature. Those behind BESE’s proposal included the office of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has made the $1,000 raises the key part of his 2019 legislative agenda, Louisiana Federation of Teachers, Louisiana Association of Educators, Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and the Louisiana School Boards Association. … BESE’s proposal mirrors the governor’s plan – $1,000 teacher pay raises, $500 hikes for support workers and a $39 million increase in state aid for public schools – $140 million per year. The Senate Education Committee endorsed the same proposal last week 6-1. If it wins Senate approval the legislation would force House leaders to decide whether to back off their earlier demands, try to strike a compromise before adjournment on June 6 or let the plan die, leaving the current funding level in place. If that happens, the Legislature could still approve teacher and support worker pay raises but they would amount to one-year stipends.
Louisiana legislature holds back gender and race equity
The cost of living varies widely across Louisiana—a two-bedroom apartment runs $1008 a month in New Orleans, and $791 a month in Lake Charles, for example. But state law prohibits local governments from setting a minimum wage appropriate to local costs. Now, new research by Heather Appel of the Partnership for Working Families, reveals that where local government can’t set a fair minimum wage, women and people of color are left behind. Louisiana, the first state to ban local governments from setting their own wage floors—a policy known as pre-emption, also has the worst rate of gender pay equity in the nation. As Kim Haddow, the director of the Local Solutions Support Center, explains, this problem isn’t limited to Louisiana alone:
“When states block local lawmaking and rob local governments of their power to respond to the needs and concerns of their communities, there are consequences and people get hurt,” said Kim Haddow, director of the Local Solutions Support Center. “As this report makes clear, the people most affected are the people most in need – women and particularly women of color. The misuse of preemption is one more way state legislatures are perpetuating inequity and weakening our democracy.”
House Bill 422, introduced by state Rep. Royce Duplessis, and supported by the Unleash Local coalition, of which LBP is a proud member, would restore local control over wages and paid leave policies.
The school voucher program falls short
Seven years ago, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law one of the country’s most ambitious school voucher programs. Over the protests of teacher unions, the controversial state law lets any child from a low-income family attending a public school rated “C,” “D” or “F” get a state voucher to attend private school. The move was billed as a way to increase school choice, but a new Nola.com/The Times-Picayune investigation found that for most of the program’s participants, the vouchers simply offered a choice of a different failing school, but without public accountability. The report, by Kim Chatelain, Lee Zurik, Jess Clark and Cody Lillich of NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune, WVUE Fox 8 News, WWNO and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, shows how the $40-million-a-year plan failed the students it was supposed to help:
Two-thirds of all students in the voucher system attended schools where they performed at a “D” or “F” level last school year, according to a data analysis by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, WVUE Fox 8 News, WWNO and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. “Bobby Jindal did not set up the Louisiana Scholarship Program for success. He set it up for low-performing schools to get subsidized and to stay open,” said Andre Perry, a fellow at The Brookings Institution and formerly the associate director for education initiatives at Loyola University’s Institute for Quality and Equity in Education.
The Louisiana Department of Education grades Louisiana public schools each year based on how well their students perform on standardized tests. None of the schools that participated in the voucher program would have received an A or B had they been a public school. Three of those schools received a C, a whopping 19 scored a D, and the remaining 15 got an F, based on the rating system.
No going alone on health care
Gov. John Bel Edwards and Attorney General Jeff Landry have been fighting a proxy war at the Legislature this spring, with competing bills each meant to guarantee health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, in case Landry is successful in having the federal Affordable Care Act is declared unconstitutional. But the Advocate’s editorial board notes that the bills amount to little more than a fig leaf unless the federal government continues to subsidize premiums.
The bills have drawn legitimate criticism because they are divorcing the Obamacare provisions from the federal funding that accompanies that law. Almost needless to say, in a government that cannot pay for all its kids to go to preschool, or pave its roads, or do a myriad other things, Louisiana can’t afford to go it alone in the realm of health care. Heck, most families with private insurance are sorely pressed by health care costs these days. … We think Landry deserves some criticism, as this kind of political privateering by an attorney general reflects a policy failure as well as pandering to one’s hard-core voter base.
Number of the Day
60 – Percentage of maternal deaths during pregnancy that are preventable. Black women in America are about three times as likely to die during pregnancy as other women (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via Associated Press)