It may be 50 years since Brown v. Board of Education, but the inequity that stems from Louisiana’s segregated past continues in the state’s schools today. In East Baton Rouge Parish, a small area comprised of 70% white residents will vote in October whether to create the breakaway city of St. George. If the push for a new city succeeds, the next step will be the creation of a new school district. St. George supporters say the breakaway movement is not motivated by race. But Adam Harris in The Atlantic suggests otherwise, and writes that the East Baton Rouge secession movement is part of a disturbing national trend.
A pattern has emerged over the past two decades: White, wealthy communities have been separating from their city’s school districts to form their own. According to a recent report from EdBuild, a nonprofit focused on public-school funding, 73 communities have split to form their own school districts since 2000, and the rate of places doing so has rapidly accelerated in the past two years. St. George, which activists seek to incorporate as a city, is a textbook example. Oftentimes, in these instances, predominantly white parents are trying to break away from a majority-minority school district, which in turn isolates their property-tax dollars in a new district. (Many public schools rely heavily on property taxes.) The argument, then, is that the parents can better dictate how their money is being spent. St. George is no different. The proposed area is more than 70 percent white and fewer than 15 percent black, while East Baton Rouge Parish is roughly 46.5 percent black.
As LBP’s Neva Butkus explains in a recent blog post, Louisiana’s persistent school segregation both harms the state’s students and makes the state as a whole less economically competitive.
Pay raises … for some
Last week, the Louisiana House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee voted 9-6 to kill House Bill 422, which would allow local cities and parishes to set their own minimum wage and paid leave laws. On Monday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to increase wages by 2.5% for 372 state judges. Louisiana judges also received pay raises each year from 2013 to 2017. The Associated Press reports:
Louisiana’s senators have agreed to a plan that could give the state’s judges annual pay hikes of 2.5% for the next five years. Senators voted Monday 35-1 for the salary boosts, sending the measure to the House. The raises under Republican Sen. Danny Martiny’s bill would start with the new budget year, July 1. Additional 2.5% raises would happen each year through 2023 if the judiciary determines it has money in its budget to pay for them. The pay hikes would cost $1.8 million in the first year and grow to $9.5 million by the fifth year.
ITEP rollback falls short
The Louisiana House narrowly rejected a plan on Monday that sought to strip away local control over property tax breaks granted to large manufacturing industries. House Concurrent Resolution 3 by Rep. Rick Edmonds of Baton Rouge would have created a three-member panel to determine whether to grant Industrial Tax Exemption Program breaks, which allow industry applicants to escape up to 80 percent of property taxes for 10 years. The Advocate’s Bryn Stole:
Edmonds’ resolution, HCR3, would’ve centralized local approval of the often-substantial industry property tax breaks in a single three-member committee composed of the parish president, sheriff and school board president. Edmonds’ legislation would have a local board review the project rather than having each local taxing jurisdiction decide whether to forgive a manufacturer’s local property taxes for 10 years in return for investing in a project that comes with jobs.
Rehab patients used as free labor for private companies
In recent years, Cenikor, a drug rehabilitation corporation with strong ties to Louisiana, received $7.5 million from the Louisiana Department of Health to provide in-house treatment services for drug-addicted patients, many who are also court involved. But several lawsuits against the company allege that the organization’s rehab services consisted of little more than sending patients to work for private companies while holding on to the money they earned. Sam Karlin from the Advocate explains:
An investigation by Reveal from the Center of Investigative Reporting and resulting lawsuits show the organization sent patients to work at the Exxon refinery, LSU dining hall and Ambrosia bakery, along with a host of other businesses. Several former patients even said they were sent to work at The Advocate. Cenikor allegedly kept the wages leaving the patients unpaid – a scheme one lawsuit dubbed “indentured servitude” – potentially violating labor laws. More than a dozen former patients claim in lawsuits they were sent to Cenikor by judges and court systems. Court officials, however, contend that judges typically don’t specify to which facility defendants must go in lieu of jail time, but Cenikor was one often used.
Number of the Day
$62 million– Annual cost to the state if a tax break on industrial utilities becomes law. It passed the House on Monday. (Source: The Advocate)