New faces, same education debates

New faces, same education debates

A new legislative term means the renewal of longstanding debates over public education – from the rules governing charter schools and private-school voucher programs to debates over student testing and teacher evaluations. As The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports, the outcome of these debates is anybody’s guess, as the education committees in the House and Senate have been overhauled with the start of a new term, just as the state is looking for a new superintendent of education: 

Whether the two committees continue to support major changes in public schools, as they have for the past four years, is one of the biggest questions. Those panels routinely killed a wide range of bills pushed by Edwards, who is aligned with the state’s two teacher unions, superintendents and school board members. Republicans control both chambers, and the GOP remains in firm control of both education panels.


The powerful petrochemical industry
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ reforms to the lucrative Industrial Tax Exemption Program have heated up a long-running battle between Louisiana’s powerful petrochemical industry and activists in the local communities directly affected by industrial pollution. ProPublica reporter Sarah Sneath, writing in The Times-Picayune | The Advocate, looks through the archives at an industry that’s accustomed to getting its way in Baton Rouge: 

Residents have repeatedly pushed back against pipelines, proposed plants and existing industry in their backyards. While such opposition is almost never monolithic, it is often overwhelming at the local level. But the state’s elected leaders have historically sided with industry, in some cases passing new laws aimed at quelling opposition.


Capital punishment doesn’t work
Ryan Matthews was still a child of 17 when he was arrested for a robbery and murder in Bridge City that he did not commit. Convicted and sentenced to Death Row at Angola, Matthews was eventually freed when DNA evidence proved his innocence, and last year he graduated college with a bachelor’s degree. He reflected on his experience – and the flawed system that imprisoned him – in a guest column for The Advocate

Louisiana has one of the highest rates of wrongful conviction and of wrongly sentencing people to death in the country. We’ve exonerated more men from death row than we’ve executed in the last 20 years. Some people say that means our justice system works. It does not. I was only exonerated by the grace of God and my dedicated legal team. I guarantee there are still innocent men on death row who have not had my good luck.


The economics of Medicare for All
Most working-age Americans who have health insurance coverage – 157 million people –  get that coverage through their employers, who also pay most of the premiums. Health insurance, in this sense, is a part of the total compensation package that people get from their jobs. So what would happen to wages if employer-based coverage is replaced by a Medicare program that covers everyone? Common sense suggests wages would rise as companies no longer had to pay premiums. But Austin Frakt writes in The New York Times that it’s a bit more complicated.

Ultimately, someone would have to pay for Medicare for all, so not everyone would be better off. But to the extent the cost of health insurance is shifted away from employers and to the federal government under Medicare for all, it seems wages would rise, at least for some people.


Number of the Day
$0.16 – Amount, per $1.08 in tax on a pack of cigarettes that Louisiana spends on anti-smoking efforts. Overall, Louisiana spends $1.50 per smoker on cessation programs, far below the national average of $2.14 per smoker. (Source: The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate)