Separate and unequal: School segregation in Louisiana 65 years after Brown v. Board

Separate and unequal: School segregation in Louisiana 65 years after Brown v. Board

Sixty-five years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in America’s public schools was unconstitutional. But as LBP’s Neva Butkus explains in a new blog, segregation still pervades Louisiana school districts. As of 2018, 23 of Louisiana’s 69 traditional school districts were under a desegregation order and  81 percent – were rated high or medium on the “dissimilarity index” – a formula used to evaluate school district segregation. Butkus explains the damaging effects of segregation and what needs to be done to move forward.

School segregation is not only unconstitutional, it makes communities less competitive. Studies have shown that school and classroom diversity can benefit all students. Increasing diversity makes students more empathetic, culturally competent, and can improve academic outcomes. It will also make Louisiana’s economy more competitive. Fortune 100 companies such as Apple, Starbucks, Entergy, and Deloitte have gone on record saying that culturally competent employees are vital to a 21st century workforce.  Louisiana and local school districts are putting themselves at a disadvantage by failing to properly address segregation in public schools. If local communities and the Legislature want a competitive workforce, then it is time we have a genuine discussion about what it takes to ensure every child has access to a quality education. This discussion would not be complete without determining the true cost of providing a quality education for every student, as increasing school funding at the state and local level will help schools attract racially and socio-economically diverse families.

(Un) leashed Local!
Louisiana in 1997 became the first state in the nation to pass a law forbidding local municipalities to make their own decisions about minimum wage, sick leave and other employment matters. On Thursday, a broad grassroots coalition led by labor and community groups (including LBP) converged on the Capitol in an effort to get that law repealed so that power can be restored to cities and towns. But the House Labor Committee, in a party-line vote, would have none of it. The Advocate’s prolific Sam Karlin reports:

(Rep. Royce) Duplessis argued locals already set their own policies on zoning, permitting, taxes and economic development incentives, all of which impact businesses. “I’m baffled as to why this one particular issue, we’re painting it as though the sky will fall if companies have to make adjustments if they even function in different parishes,” Duplessis said. Unleash Local in a statement after the vote called the vote “disappointing” and said committee members have a “fear of local democracy.” The coalition includes Step Up Louisiana, the Louisiana Budget Project, American Heart Association, Louisiana AFL-CIO and several other groups.

Several other states followed suit with their own pre-emption laws after Louisiana passed its measure. Colorado recently became the first state to repeal pre-emption and restore power to local communities.


Health care reform and jobs

One of the reasons America’s healthcare system is the most expensive in the world – consuming roughly 18 percent of the whole economy – is because it includes an awful lot of people who don’t provide any actual health care. They are insurance brokers, drug company reps, billing clerks and other intermediaries who keep the business side of the industry going. And if Medicare-for-all ever becomes reality, millions of them would lose their jobs. Physician-turned-journalist Elizabeth Rosenthal, writing in The New York Times, says that’s not necessarily a bad thing provided we plan ahead for a smooth transition.

Though it will be economically painful, the point is to streamline for patients a Kafka-esque health care system that makes money for industry through irrational practices. After all, shouldn’t the primary goal of a health care system be delivering efficient care at a reasonable price, not rewarding shareholders or buttressing the economy? … Robert Pollin, an economist at the Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is frustrated not just by the doomsday predictions but also by how proponents of Medicare for all tend to gloss over the jobs issue. “Every proponent of Medicare for all — including myself — has to recognize that the biggest source of cost saving is layoffs,” he said. He has calculated that Medicare for all would result in job losses (mostly among administrators) “somewhere in the range of two million” — about half on the insurers’ side and half employed in hospitals and doctors’ offices to argue with the former. Supporters of Medicare for all, he said, have to think about a “just transition” and “what it might look like.”


Do tax breaks help or hurt?

Tax breaks and incentives have long been used as a tool for attracting business and economic development for the state or local economy. However, a new study by North Carolina State University is taking a deep dive into fiscal impact of these incentives.  Unsurprisingly, the results found that these programs hurt the financial stability of a state’s government by drawing resources away from needed investments.  Mike Maciag of Governing has more on the study:

Most of the programs they looked at — investment tax credits, property tax abatements, and tax credits for research and development — were linked with worse overall fiscal health for the jurisdiction that enacted them. “It’s not that incentives are bad or that we shouldn’t use incentives,” says Bruce McDonald, an NC State associate professor who led the research team. “But if a state or local government is going to provide an incentive, there needs to be some kind of clarity on what the realistic expectations are for what they might get back.”


Who does and doesn’t have a college degree

The level of educational attainment has been steadily increasing in America. But, there is still a big disparity between those who do and do not have a college degree.  A new study looks at those who are recent college graduates age 21-24 to learn more about their economic prospects. Economic Policy Institute’s Elise Gould, Zane Mokhiber, and Juila Wolfe has more:

Fewer than one-fifth of adults ages 21–24 are college graduates.

  • Women in this age group are more likely than men to have a college degree. Women make up half of 21- to 24-year-olds but well over half (57.4 percent) of young college degree holders.
  • White and Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) young adults are more likely than black and Hispanic young adults to hold a college degree. White young adults represent just over half (54.3 percent) of the young adult population but two-thirds of those with a college degree; AAPI young adults are also disproportionately represented among those young adults with a college degree. Young black and Hispanic adults between the ages of 21 and 24 are far less likely to be college graduates relative to their representation in the population.

The overall employment rate for young college graduates has declined, and the share who are idled—neither employed nor enrolled in further schooling—has increased between 1989 and 2019.

  • This trend was driven primarily by a decline in the share who are employed and not enrolled in additional schooling.
  • Of those graduates who are enrolled, about half are working while in school.


Number of the Day

81.4% – The statewide four year public high school graduation rate in 2018. (Source: Louisiana Department of Education)