On Thursday, a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) task force endorsed Gov. John Bel Edwards’ plan to raise public school teacher pay by $1,500 next school year. If the state’s revenue projections go up, as expected, the raises could grow to $2,000 (and $1,000 a year for support workers). Flush with Covid-19 relief dollars, some local school districts are also considering one-time salary supplements. In East Baton Rouge Parish, the superintendent wants to give classroom teachers and librarians a $2,000 bonus. But as The Advocate’s Charles Lussier reports, other school system workers would be left out:
Paige Colwell, who teaches at McKinley Middle, said she objected last year when the school system paid a $1,300 across-the-board stipend, but excluded some employees who were not working every day, including women who took pregnancy leave. She said she’s disappointed employees are being passed over again. “Why are support workers being excluded this time around?” Colwell asked. Cordelia Macmurdo, a speech language pathologist, said she’s likely to be left out and urged the board to change that. “We don’t have a class roster, but we have a caseload,” she said.
Reality check: Louisiana teachers’ salaries trail the Southern regional average by around $4,000, and that gap could grow as other states are also prioritizing teacher pay with their Covid-19 resources.
Black Louisianans deserve fair representation
The Louisiana Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee met Thursday to consider six proposed maps for Louisiana’s congressional districts: five from Democrats, all of which would create a new majority-Black district, and one from a Republican lawmaker, which would leave intact the status quo, in which Louisiana’s Black population is significantly underrepresented in Congress. A second majority-Black district would bring the voting influence of Black Louisianans in line with their proportion of the state population: 33% as of the 2020 Census. As The Advocate’s Blake Paterson reports, Republican lawmakers laid out their opposition to another majority-Black district in the hearing:
State Senator Sharon Hewitt, a Slidell Republican and chair of the upper chamber’s redistricting committee, said it isn’t possible to draw two majority-Black districts with substantial enough margins in either seat to ensure that minority voters would have the opportunity to elect their candidate of choice. “You could potentially risk not having a minority elected to either one,” Hewitt argued. But a coalition of civil rights groups said that’s not true. They hired experts to analyze Louisiana’s racial voting patterns across several past elections and determined that there are at least half a dozen ways to draw a congressional map with two Black-opportunity districts.
LBP’s Jackson Voss outlines the priorities that Louisiana should follow when redrawing our maps.
Evictions on the rise
During most of the pandemic, a combination of eviction moratoria, federal aid through enhanced unemployment insurance, stimulus checks, and child tax credit payments and direct assistance to renters through emergency rental assistance programs helped keep people in their homes, despite severe economic setbacks. Now, however, most of those federal efforts are gone or weakened, leaving low-income renters vulnerable to losing their homes. Stateline’s Kristian Hernánez reports on how evictions are now surging to pre-pandemic levels in many U.S. cities:
Houston-area landlords filed for more than 5,400 evictions in January, at least 1,000 more than the average for this month pre-pandemic, a spike that housing advocates say will become a national trend as federal and state rental assistance runs out and renter protections expire. Eviction cases have been on the rise in Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, since federal renter protections were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in late August. More recently, filings shot up here after emergency rental assistance programs that have helped tens of thousands of families stay in their homes ran out of money, according to local administrators.
Because America’s politicians have failed to make health care universally accessible, many Americans have turned to crowdfunding on sites like GoFundMe to help pay their medical debt. Over five years, 437,596 campaigns in GoFundMe’s “medical, illness and healing” category raised more than $2 billion. But a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that people in states with higher medical debt and lower rates of insurance—those who are the most likely to need assistance—are more likely to try to raise money, but less likely to succeed. Kim Eckart at UW News reports:
“Because the campaigns people see on social networks are almost always the small subset that are shared widely, the public may have the impression that crowdfunding is more likely to be successful than it really is,” [sociology student Mark] Igra said. …. While thousands of people turn to crowdfunding to pay their medical bills, the study’s findings point to a more equitable and comprehensive solution: better health insurance coverage and social assistance programs. “Relying on marketplace-based solutions only deepens already steep health inequalities. This research underscores the need for broader safety net programs that provide help to all those who need it,” [Nora] Kenworthy said.
Number of the Day
28% – The percentage of Louisiana’s population carrying medical debt (Source: UW News)