School crisis in rural Louisiana

School crisis in rural Louisiana

More than half of Louisiana’s rural school districts are either in a financial crisis or heading that way soon, according to a new report from the Louisiana Department of Education. The report blames population loss, falling property values and stagnant state support. In Tensas Parish, for example, enrollment has dropped by more than half in the past two decades, and teachers are paid about $20,000 below the state average. The Advocate’s Will Sentell explains some proposed solutions. 

“If we don’t financially address it now and work together to come up with reasonable legislation, then inevitably the state will pay for these school systems,” (state Rep. Jack) McFarland said. The report said other states have set up “support centers” that allow struggling districts to share costs, especially for bulk items. The governing board could include one or two school board members from each school system taking part.


Edwards outlines legislative priorities
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ legislative priorities this year look much as they have in the recent past: More funding for education, an increase in the minimum wage and an end to the gender wage gap. Speaking to the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday, the governor was noncommittal on the issue of tort “reform,” which is the GOP’s top priority, but  did throw his support behind a specific minimum wage proposal. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte reports: 

Edwards is supporting Democratic New Orleans Sen. Troy Carter’s proposal to set Louisiana’s minimum wage at $9 per hour on Jan. 1, 2021, and raise it to $10 per hour six months later, up from the current federal rate of $7.25.  “We’ve fallen too far behind in Louisiana,” Edwards told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. “We know that an overwhelming majority of people in Louisiana agree with us.”

Discouraging black-white wage gap

The wage gap between black and white workers is worse today than it was in 2000, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. The gap is the smallest at the bottom of the income scale – where the minimum wage serves as a floor – and greatest at the top, where high-wage professions are located. As EPI’s Elise Gould explains, black workers can’t simply educate themselves out of the wage gap. 

Across various levels of education, a significant black–white wage gap remains. Even black workers with an advanced degree experience a significant wage gap compared with their white counterparts. And after controlling for age, gender, education, and region, black workers are paid 14.9% less than white workers.

EPI hosted a roundtable discussion on policy priorities- including the black-white wage gap – that the 2020 presidential candidates should focus on in order to help black workers in the economy. You can view the discussion here

Setting the record straight on effective tax rates

Former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm and labor economist John Early wrote an op-ed last week that argued against higher taxes on the wealthy. But contrary to their claims, the richest households in the country do not pay a higher effective tax rate – taxes paid divided by income – than everyone else. Gramm and Early misleadingly left out income that mostly goes to the rich – unearned income like capital gains, stock dividends and interest – in their calculations. Steve Wamhoff of the Economic Policy Institute sets the record straight. 

The average effective tax rates do go up a bit as you move up the income ladder, but not by nearly as much as Gramm and Early would have you believe. And the way our tax system treats low-income families is different from the story Gramm and Early tell.  We find that the poorest 20 percent of households pay a total effective tax rate of about 20 percent and the richest 1 percent of households pay a total effective tax rate of about 34 percent, on average.

Number of the Day

71% – Number of Americans who say people are poor because they have faced more obstacles in life. (Source: Pew Research Center