Louisianans have struggled mightily, and inequitably, during the Covid-19 pandemic. Federal recovery dollars are critical not only to getting our state back on track, but to ensuring that the people who have struggled the most — disproportionately, Black and brown Louisianans working in the service industry jobs hit hardest by necessary public health closures — can come back stronger than before. On Thursday Gov. John Bel Edwards announced his priorities for half of the $3.6 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act: refilling the unemployment insurance (UI) trust fund, paying down debt, boosting the tourism industry and funding infrastructure projects. While some of these investments are needed, the plan falls short of providing direct support for Louisianans most in need. The Advocate’s Blake Paterson has the story:
Edwards said $300 million won’t be nearly enough to solve the state’s water and sewage problems, but said that paired with local dollars, and the potential for more federal funds through an infrastructure bill, this is a historic investment opportunity. “This is a once-in-a-hundred year opportunity to make significant advances in water and sewer, which is a tremendous problem all across the state in Louisiana,” Edwards said. To aggressively market Louisiana, Edwards wants the Department of Culture Recreation and Tourism to receive $20 million, with another $125 million for local convention and visitors bureau.
Read LBP’s recommendations for the recovery act dollars – in a blog by policy analyst Jackson Voss – here.
Senate committee approves transphobic bill
Transgender kids often face bullying and discrimination in school and unsafe situations at home. But for many trans kids, just as for many cisgender and non-binary kids, playing sports can can be a key way to develop friendships, to find support from adults, and simply to have fun. Senate Bill 156, by state Sen. Beth Mizell, seeks to bar transgender girls from participating according to their own gender in girls’ sporting events sponsored by a school. If the bill becomes law, Louisiana stands to lose major sporting events, such as the NCAA Final Four basketball, and the tourism dollars that come with them. The bill passed out of committee with unanimous support. Gov. John Bel Edwards has stated he would veto the bill. Blake Paterson of the Advocate:
Dr. Clifton S. Mixon, a child psychologist at Ochsner, said the bill “solves a problem that doesn’t exist” and “approaches a very complex issue with a mallet that’s going to hurt a lot of people.” He noted that transgender youth already face heightened levels of bullying and said this legislation will only further that harassment and self-loathing. “We’re overly focused on competitiveness and not humanity,” Mixon added. There are no transgender athletes currently competing in high school sports in Louisiana. That’s because the rules promulgated by the Louisiana High School Athletics Association require transgender athletes to undergo sex reassignment surgery — interventions that aren’t typical recommended for minors, according to Dylan Waguespack, president of Louisiana Trans Advocates.
There is nothing good about slavery
Gov. John Bel Edwards told reporters on Thursday that he believes Rep. Ray Garofalo should be removed from his position as chairman of the House Education Committee, following Garofalo’s comments in a hearing on his bill, House Bill 564, that we should teach “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of slavery. The Legislative Black Caucus and the New Orleans City Council have also called for Garofalo’s removal. As The Illuminator’s Jarvis DeBerry explains, Garofalo’s defense that he was just using a stock phrase rings hollow:
Garofalo wasn’t putting forward a good bill. He was offering legislation to promote the preposterous idea that a country that wiped out people who were already here and imported people who didn’t want to be here isn’t fundamentally racist and isn’t yet profiting from those great crimes. His bill would have prohibited the state’s public school teachers and professors from teaching that either the U.S. or Louisiana “is fundamentally, institutionally, or systemically racist or sexist.” That means his bill would have shielded Louisiana’s students from lessons about the murderous invasion of Native land, lessons about America’s 350-year history of slavery and Jim Crow and lessons about how that has shaped today. So Garofalo gets no benefit of the doubt.
Doubling down on teacher pay
Louisiana teachers earn significantly less than their Southern regional counterparts – on average, $4,000 less than teachers across the South In the 2018-2019 school year. The pandemic derailed last year’s legislative discussions on pay raises, but the Senate Committee on Education returned to the issue on Thursday, with committee chair Sen. Cleo Fields announcing a bipartisan agreement to raise pay for teachers and support workers by $1,000 a year and $500 a year, respectively. These figures are more than double Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposed increases. Melinda Deslatte has the details for the AP:
Sen. Cleo Fields, a Baton Rouge Democrat, said legislative leaders plan to include that salary hike in next year’s budget, along with a $500 increase for support staff such as cafeteria workers and bus drivers. Louisiana remains well behind the Southern average for its education salaries. Fields said the agreement was reached with Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, along with the heads of the House and Senate budget committees, all Republicans. Edwards had proposed $400 teacher raises and $200 for support workers, though the Democratic governor had said he hoped that could be increased if more money became available. The smaller raises “are insufficient,” Fields said in a meeting of the Senate Education Committee.
Number of the Day
21.1% – The increase in American personal income in March. These gains largely reflect the economic stimulus payments that went out last month to millions of American households. (Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis)