Ending racial disparities by investing in kids

Ending racial disparities by investing in kids

Louisiana has the ignoble distinction of having the country’s second-highest poverty rate, along with some of the widest disparities between high-wealth and low-wealth residents anywhere in America. Candace Weber, partnership director for the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, writes in The Advocate that it doesn’t have to be this way. In a month when Louisiana honors Black history and the importance of early childhood education, policymakers have the opportunity to help workers and families with young children by committing more resources to early care and education programs.  

While racial disparities have persisted for generations, it doesn’t have to remain this way. Investments in early child care can benefit underrepresented families for generations to come. We can and must do more to strengthen our early care and education systems. Investing in early care and education can increase the median wage that child care workers earn, allowing more families to afford basic needs and stabilize their futures. Furthermore, this investment can increase Louisiana’s workforce, save our economy billions of dollars and ensure that children enter kindergarten prepared to thrive.

Who pays for power outages?
Entergy Louisiana is asking state utility regulators for permission to pass $3.2 billion in costs associated with the recent hurricanes on to its customers, rather than its shareholders, through $10 monthly surcharges that would last for 15 years. Gannett’s Greg Hilburn reports that one Public Service Commissioner, Foster Campbell, plans to vote against the measure because he doesn’t think North Louisiana residents should be paying for electrical grid damage that mostly affected southern parts of the state. 

Entergy’s northern Louisiana grid did suffer significant damage from Hurricane Laura and the historic winter storm, but the other storms didn’t cause significant damage in Campbell’s district. “If North Louisiana suffers a storm, it should pay its fair share of the damages,” Campbell said. “The question is, what is fair?” Entergy’s request isn’t unprecedented. Northern Louisiana Entergy customers are already paying for past storms including hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Isaac. The largest of those previous surcharges, averaging $5 a month for 2005 hurricanes Katrina and Rita, appeared on Entergy customer bills for a full decade from 2008-2018.

The commission is scheduled to vote on the matter on Wednesday. 

Lake Charles is still suffering
It’s been more than 525 days since Hurricane Laura devastated the Lake Charles region, which was followed six weeks later by Hurricane Delta. But the U.S. Congress, dysfunctional as ever, has yet to come through with the disaster recovery aid that local officials are clamoring for. State officials hope to have the money included as part of a budget deal that must be wrapped up by a March 11 deadline. Mike Smith reports for The Advocate

Long-term disaster relief for the region was not approved by Congress until more than a year after Laura, which struck in August 2020. That’s an extraordinary amount of time to wait when compared to responses to other disasters; a first tranche of dollars intended for Hurricane Ida relief was approved at the same time, though Ida hit in August 2021. Beyond that, the amount approved for Laura and Delta relief amounted to just $600 million – far short of what Edwards and local officials say is needed. Edwards has spelled out around $1 billion in housing needs alone for Laura, Delta and Hurricane Zeta, which hit southeast Louisiana in October 2020. The vast majority of those needs are in the state’s southwest.

The Roots of Southern University’s Law Center
The U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Plessy v. Ferguson decision in 1896 cemented legal segregation in Louisiana and elsewhere and helped ensure that generations of Black citizens received inferior public accommodations than their white peers. An Advocate editorial notes that something good did come out of that terrible decision: The Southern University Law Center. The longtime dean of the law school, John Pierre, recently provided a history lesson to the Press Club of Baton Rouge: 

In 1946, Charles Hatfield sued the state, as there was no public law school in Louisiana that Black students could attend. In a case strategy that was replicated by great lawyers like Thurgood Marshall, state governments and local schools across the South were challenged: End segregation or pay up for your “separate but equal” doctrine. Hatfield “had no chance to be admitted to LSU law school, but he was courageous enough to make application,” Pierre recounted. And Marshall, A.P. Tureaud and Louis Berry — “all of them transformative leaders in their times” — forced Louisiana to face up to the realities of segregation. Instead of admitting Hatfield and other Black students to LSU, the state eventually funded the Law Center, and its first class of 13 men took up their books in 1947.

Programming Alert
Join us this afternoon for the next installment of Racism: Dismantling the System speaker series, hosted by LBP and the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication. The discussion will give insight on how companies handle racism that their consumers and employees experience. Details: Tuesday, Feb. 22 at 3:30 p.m. Click here to reserve your space for the online event. You can also view this episode on LBP’s Facebook Livestream.

Number of the Day
$2,394,555,182 – Remaining “unmet need” for disaster recovery associated with the two hurricanes that struck Southwest Louisiana in 2020. Congress has only appropriated $600 million to date (Source: Louisiana Office of Community Development)