Don’t blame the rankings

Don’t blame the rankings

It’s often said that Louisiana is at the top of too many bad lists and the bottom of too many good ones, and our state’s rankings on educational attainment are no exception. But, as the inimitable Jim Beam of the Lake Charles American-Press reports, the Bayou State didn’t get there overnight and it will take prolonged attention and reinvestment to undo years of cuts. Citing the Board of Regents new Master Plan as a step in the right direction, he outlines recent progress and a path forward:    

Budget stability and surpluses made it possible for all phases of education to get extra funding at this year’s legislative session, but it’s going to take more years of that to get all of them back to where they need to be. Sixteen budget reductions over a decade were especially tough on higher education. It shifted the cost burdens for colleges and universities from the state to students and families. Unfortunately, some news reports about that budget request said it wasn’t likely higher education would get that much of an increase. How are we ever going to get off those bad lists if we don’t start reinvesting in our higher education systems? It’s the only solution guaranteed to get the job done.


Should judges be appointed?
In Houston last year, voters elected 19 black Democratic women to local judgeships. And those judges have since instituted long-needed, sweeping bail reforms. Now Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants to change how judges are chosen, moving from elections to appointments. Billy Corriher reports in Facing South that Abbott’s plan, which was torpedoed in the state legislature, could make the process more partisan:  

This year Republican legislators introduced a bill, supported by (Gov.) Abbott, that would have replaced judicial elections with a system in which the governor appoints judges, subject to Senate confirmation. Every four years, voters would decide whether to keep the judges in office through a nonpartisan “retention” election. However, the bill would have ended elections only in counties with more than 500,000 people, targeting urban areas like Houston. That would mean the governor would choose judges in the state’s larger, more diverse counties, while rural, conservative counties could keep choosing their own judges.


Progress on workers rights
Once the realm of elite executives and trade secrets, the use of “non-compete clauses” has mushroomed in recent years and begun affecting lower-paid workers – the most notorious example coming when sandwich chain Jimmy Johns began using them for store workers and delivery drivers. U.S. Sens. Todd Young of Indiana and Chris Murphy of Connecticut introduced legislation this year that aims to stop this type of abuse. Jane Flanagan and Terri Gerstein of Economic Policy Institute have the details:  

Workers’ inability to leave their jobs because of non-compete agreements and similar limitations has also contributed to the wage stagnation of recent decades. Two studies released just last month found that non-compete agreements adversely affected wages and job mobility. This makes sense, given that the agreements erode the leverage that workers typically get from the threat of leaving their jobs to work elsewhere. That threat is now empty for millions of Americans subject to these provisions, showing that non-compete agreements aren’t really about trade secrets anymore. They’re about limiting workers’ bargaining power.


Reenacting rebellion
Today in LaPlace, more than 300 people of color will re-enact the ill-fated attempt of as many as 500 slaves to win their freedom known as the 1811 German Coast Uprising. The art project has been in the planning stages for six years and included community listening sessions and permits across multiple parishes. Richard Fausset (photographs by Wayne Lawrence) reports in The New York Times (the photographs are worth a view) on how the march aims to bring together history and modern day realities of poverty and race: 

Organizers expect 300 or more people of color — teachers, lawyers, artists, students, activists — to participate. Over two days, they will march 26 miles in period costumes, armed with prop machetes and muskets and chanting for their freedom. Some will be on horseback. Some will carry flags. They will pass near oil refineries and subdivisions and trailer homes along the Mississippi River, creating anachronistic tableaus that Mr. (Dread) Scott hopes will spur meditations on the modern-day meanings of oppression and crisis.


Number of the Day:
$87,000 – The additional interest paid on a $250,000 house when the buyer has a subprime credit score. (Source: The Urban Institute)