A bipartisan start to a second term 

A bipartisan start to a second term 

Defying pressure from GOP power brokers, the House on Monday selected a 50-year-old auto mechanic and former race car driver as its next speaker. Rep. Clay Schexnayder of Gonzales takes the gavel with backing from a bipartisan coalition of Republicans and independents, along with all 35 Democrats in the lower chamber. He beat out Rep. Sheman Mack, an Albany lawyer, who was backed by Attorney General Jeff Landry, U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy and 45 Republican House members. The Advocate’s Sam Karlin

“This is our moment to restore our faith of the people in this state,” Schexnayder said. “We will show them that 105 people, men and women from different backgrounds from different parties and different parts of this state can be trusted to stand together against outside influences and stand for a prosperous Louisiana for our families and for generations to come.”  The 23 Republicans who voted for Schexnayder included many who have been willing to work across the aisle, while many conservatives, party leaders and freshmen sided with Mack. 

The speaker vote was welcome news for Gov. John Bel Edwards on the day he was sworn in for a second term. With strong Republican majorities in both chambers, Edwards’ best hope for achieving policy gains rests on his ability to forge bipartisan support on issues such as teacher pay, early childhood education, the minimum wage increases and equal pay for women.  Mark Ballard of The Advocate quoting Edward’s inauguration speech

“We know that education is the key to economic opportunity and that a pathway to prosperity must begin at the earliest stages of life. That is why the highest priority for new investments in education of my second term will be early childhood education,” Edwards said. “We are also going to better fund every level of education. For as long as any of us can probably remember, K-12 students, parents and educators were told to be happy with a standstill budget that did not account for inflation. But I’ve met with educators all across the state and they can’t run their classrooms on empty promises. They deserve better.”

The Senate, as expected, picked Republican Page Cortez as its president. Committee assignments in both chambers will be announced in the days to come. 


Louisiana’s economic growth spurt
Louisiana’s economy grew at a 2.9% clip in the third quarter – the fourth-fastest rate in the country during the July-September period, according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data released Friday. The growth is mostly attributed to non-durable goods manufacturing, which grew by 1.7%. Other core Louisiana industries also grew including retail trade, real estate, mining, health care and other services. Kristen Mosbrucker at the Advocate:

Texas had the fastest GDP growth during third quarter at 4%, followed by Utah at 3.2%, records show. Mississippi fell behind Louisiana with GDP growth of 1.9%, while Alabama grew by only 1.7% second to third quarter.


Can housing costs drag down growth?
The spiraling cost of housing in major cities is particularly harmful to low- and middle-income workers, who are increasingly unable to live in the vicinity of available jobs. From Washington DC to Portland and San Mateo, a lack of affordable housing is creating longer commutes and creating problems for the haves as well as the have-nots. Ally Schweitzer at NPR expounds:

The geographic divide between jobs and workers is what economists call “spatial mismatch,” and it can significantly affect economic growth. Basically, if people don’t have access to jobs, growth slows down. A 2019 report published in American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics showed that constraints on housing — such as zoning codes that limit apartment construction — lowered U.S. economic growth by 36% between 1964 and 2009. “Spatial mismatch” is affecting middle class workers, too — including government employees. A 2019 report showed almost half of Montgomery County’s government workforce lives outside the county, where median home sales prices reached a record $465,000 in November.


Holiday concerts show segregated learning
New York City is one of the most economically and racially diverse cities in the country, if not the world. Not so for the city’s public school system, where schools that look diverse from the outside turn out to be sharply segregated along racial lines thanks to gifted and talented classes that disproportionately enroll white children from affluent backgrounds. Last year a multi-racial group of parents and teachers voted to end the gifted and talented program, and the New York City department of education now supports the decision. Erin Richards from USA Today reports:

Phasing out gifted and talented programs at PS 9 will test a controversial recommendation from a school diversity panel appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to end such programs at all elementary schools in the city. The panel’s rationale: Gifted programs are biased and serve to segregate children along lines of race and class, in large part because admission to most programs is based on a screening exam parents can register their children to take, starting at age 4.

By the numbers, PS 9 is one of the most diverse schools in New York City:

From the outside, the racial divide might seem curious as PS 9 is one of the most diverse elementary schools in Brooklyn: Out of about 940 students, 40% are black, 31% are white, 17% are Hispanic and 9% are Asian. But inside, many students spend their days learning in separate groups. The gifted and talented classes are attended by mostly white and Asian kids; the general education classes, mostly black students. “It wasn’t obvious until you sat in the audience and watched everyone,” said Afiya Lahens, a black parent whose daughter is in the general education track. 


Number of the Day
15-0 – LSU football team’s record after completing its first perfect season since 1958 with a 42-25 win over Clemson (Source: The Advocate)