A new push to keep kids in the dark

A new push to keep kids in the dark

Conservative Louisiana legislators are gearing up for another fight over what public school students are allowed to learn about the state’s history of legal and systemic racism. State lawmakers rejected a bill last spring to ban Louisiana’s teachers and professors from teaching students about systemic racism in our state and nation’s history, but the issue has continued to gain currency among national conservatives after becoming prominent in the Virginia governor’s race. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard notes that this push is the latest in a long line of attempts by conservatives to politicize public education. 

A few years ago, it was (the) Common Core State Standards Initiative, federally recognized academic criteria that many parents thought should have been proposed locally. Louisiana massaged the wording, called Common Core something else and the storm dissipated after the 2016 elections. Before that Louisiana passed a law, which until overturned by the courts would have required schools to teach faith-based Biblical theories as the equal of empirically tested science. Then there was Florida orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign in the 1980s that wanted to forbid hiring of homosexual and lesbian schoolteachers. 

Baton Rouge bus system on the brink
Thousands of people in Baton Rouge, many with low incomes, rely on the public bus system to get to and from jobs, medical appointments and other vital appointments. But in recent months the Citizens Area Transit System (CATS) has become increasingly unreliable, as cancellations and delays have skyrocketed. As Paul Cobler and Blake Paterson report for The Advocate, these problems are coming at the worst possible time, as voters in the capital city are being asked to renew a 10-year property tax that provides more than half of the system’s annual operating budget. 

For many riders, bus service isn’t just point-to-point, but involves transfers. If a bus arrives late to a transfer point, additional delays can result because of the missed connection. Max Dozier, 62, relies on CATS to get to the clinic for his bone infection treatments. But the bus that runs by his Sherwood Forest Boulevard apartment, Route 57, only comes once every 45 minutes.  So, when CATS cancels trips on that route — as it did 106 times in August, before the system shutdown ahead of Hurricane Ida — riders like Dozier are stranded at the bus stop for almost an hour.  “Frustrated isn’t the word for it,” Dozier said. “It’s stressful and aggravating. But it’s the only thing I’ve got.” 

The ticket-writing money machine
The town of Henderson – population 2,000, nestled along Interstate 10 between Baton Rouge and Lafayette – gets 89% of its annual revenue from traffic tickets. A New York Times investigation by Mike McIntire and Michael H. Keller found that hundreds of small and medium-sized towns and cities, mostly in the South and Midwest, rely heavily on money from traffic stops to finance their general operations. It’s a practice that can be costly and aggravating for drivers, particularly people with low incomes, and can occasionally turn violent. 

A hidden scaffolding of financial incentives underpins the policing of motorists in the United States, encouraging some communities to essentially repurpose armed officers as revenue agents searching for infractions largely unrelated to public safety. As a result, driving is one of the most common daily routines during which people have been shot, Tased, beaten or arrested after minor offenses. … Fueling the culture of traffic stops is the federal government, which issues over $600 million a year in highway safety grants that subsidize ticket writing. 

Louisiana’s big bet on LNG
Louisiana has become a global hub for the export of natural gas, and the Lake Charles region is the epicenter. In recent years corporations have invested tens of billions of dollars in massive new plants that compress natural gas into a liquid form that can be exported across the globe. As The Advocate’s Mike Smith points out, however, generous state property tax incentives means local communities aren’t seeing an influx of new revenue, and the plants offer relatively few permanent jobs once construction is finished. 

But LNG is also an important source of greenhouse gas emissions, and some question if the trade-off in pollution and major tax breaks amounts to a good investment for the state. The industry will surely factor into discussions as world leaders gather for a climate summit this week in Scotland, a meeting that Gov. John Bel Edwards will also attend. At the same time, Lake Charles will host a major LNG industry conference from Tuesday through Thursday.

Mark Schleifstein reports for Nola.com | The New Orleans Advocate that low-lying Louisiana is uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, yet produces more greenhouse gases per capita than any other state. Edwards is trying to use those facts to pitch the state as a hub for low-carbon investments. 

But the transition to a clean-carbon future will take decades, (Edwards) said, and the public should recognize that while it is occurring oil and natural gas produced in Louisiana or the Gulf of Mexico can still be sold as substitutes for more carbon-intensive fuels such as coal in the U.S. and around the world.

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Number of the Day
323,140 – Number of Louisianans who qualified for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits in the wake of Hurricane Ida. It’s the second-largest disbursement of emergency food benefits in the state’s history, trailing only Hurricane Gustav in 2008. (Source: Department of Children and Family Services via The Advocate)