Invest in Opportunity Youth

Invest in Opportunity Youth

Nearly 1 in 6 Louisianans aged 16 to 24 are neither working nor going to school. This cohort of young people, known as “Opportunity Youth,” are more vulnerable than others their age, as they transition from childhood to adulthood without the social and economic support they need to thrive later in life. Unfortunately, due to deep and persistent inequities, this cohort disproportionately includes young Black people. LBP’s Jackson Voss outlines steps that state policymakers should take to ensure that Opportunity Youth connect to a post-Covid-19 economy.

While many of the obstacles facing Louisiana’s Opportunity Youth are challenging, none of the problems they experience are mysterious or unsolvable. In fact, they include problems shared by many other working and low-income people and communities. By addressing the needs of and challenges faced by Opportunity Youth, Louisiana is not only ensuring that it’s taking care of its most vulnerable young people, it will be helping to also address the needs of all working Louisianans by building a more just and equitable state economy.


The case for higher wages
For the last several decades, politicians in both major parties have been guided by the ethos that the best way to grow the economy is by cutting taxes. This formula doesn’t work, as The New York Times points out in an editorial, yet it remains popular because it does not have a clear rival. A better way to generate growth would be to boost wages for ordinary workers by raising the federal minimum wage and increasing workers’ bargaining power. 

The importance of rewriting our stories about the way that the economy works is that they frame our policy debates. Our beliefs about economics determine what seems viable and worthwhile — and whether new ideas can muster support. Preaching the value of higher wages is a necessary first step toward concrete changes in public policy that can begin to shift economic power. …  A focus on higher wages is not a sufficient goal for economic policy. There is a genuine need for a stronger safety net to ensure a minimum quality of life. The pursuit of economic growth has to be balanced against other imperatives, notably environmental protection. Wage growth by itself is not a corrective for the accumulated effects of racism or other social ills.


Bipartisan stimulus plan
A bipartisan group of senators will unveil a $908 billion stimulus proposal on Tuesday. The move is seen as a last-ditch attempt to revive stalled coronavirus relief negotiations as the federal government nears a shutdown later this month and emergency unemployment benefits, eviction moratoriums and student loan forbearance are set to expire for millions of Americans. The Washington Post’s Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein report on what’s included in the proposal: 

The plan set to be released by the bipartisan group seeks to reach a middle ground on numerous contentious economic issues. It would provide $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits — a lower amount than the $600 per week sought by Democrats, while still offering substantial relief to tens of millions of jobless Americans — for four more months. The agreement includes $240 billion in funding for state and local governments, a key Democratic priority opposed by most Republicans, as well as a six-month moratorium on some coronavirus-related lawsuits against firms and other entities — a key Republican priority opposed by most Democrats.


Students are falling behind in math
The stay-at-home protocols prompted by the coronavirus pandemic are causing many students to fall behind in math, according to a new assessment from NWEA, a nonprofit focused on student assessment. These numbers paint an incomplete picture, as a disproportionately large number of poor and minority students were not in the classroom this fall. The AP’s Carolyn Thompson reports

But researchers at NWEA, whose MAP Growth assessments are meant to measure student proficiency, caution they may be underestimating the effects on minority and economically disadvantaged groups. Those students made up a significant portion of the roughly 1 in 4 students who tested in 2019 but were missing from 2020 testing. NWEA said they may have opted out of the assessments, which were given in-person and remotely, because they lacked reliable technology or stopped going to school. “Given we’ve also seen school district reports of higher levels of absenteeism in many different school districts, this is something to really be concerned about,” researcher Megan Kuhfeld said on a call with reporters. 


Number of the Day
$1 billion – Value of the federal tax exemption received by 90 nonprofit organizations classified as “hate groups” over the past decade. (Source: CBS This Morning)