Louisiana’s dire teacher shortage

Louisiana’s dire teacher shortage

Some 50,000 students in Louisiana’s public schools don’t have a permanent certified teacher in their classroom – a problem that is getting worse as Louisiana educator salaries lag the rest of the country and fewer students enter the teaching profession. Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed told the House Education Committee this week that the ongoing teacher shortage – the state is currently short about 2,500 teachers – has become a crisis. The Louisiana Illuminator’s JC Canicosa was there:  

Schools are also having to expand class sizes to accommodate, further stretching working teachers, (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Ronnie) Morris said. Some schools have put large groups of students into cafeterias or gyms to supervise them because there aren’t enough teachers to educate them, he said “That’s not school,” he said. “That’s just babysitting, and we can do better than that.” In 2011, about 3,231 students completed a bachelor’s degree program in Louisiana to become an educator. Since then, the number has shrunk to 2,743, meaning about 500 fewer teachers are entering the workforce than a decade ago.

Legislators don’t appear very serious about addressing the problem. The education panel advanced a bill that would create a new scholarship fund for training new teachers, but so far there is no money earmarked for the fund. Gov. John Bel Edwards has proposed a modest $1,500 per year raise for teachers and a smaller increase for school support workers.

Sen. Scott’s tax increase on the poor
The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee thinks the problem with federal income taxes is that poor people don’t pay enough of them. Florida Sen. Rick Scott recently proposed a requirement for every American to pay personal income taxes, pulling another support out from under America’s low-income families. The good folks at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) crunched the numbers and found that the poorest 40% of taxpayers would see their taxes go up by an average of $1,000 per year. That’s because people with low incomes – especially with children –  would no longer benefit the same way from refundable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. 

These refundable tax credits are one feature of the federal personal income tax that makes it progressive. But Americans, including those who benefit from these tax credits, pay many other taxes that are not progressive, such as the federal payroll tax and state and local taxes, particularly property taxes and sales taxes. (ITEP has demonstrated in previous analyses that America’s tax system overall, including all the taxes that Americans pay, is not very progressive.)

Louisiana would be among the biggest losers under Scott’s proposal, as ITEP estimates that 44.8% of residents would pay more if it became law. Former Gov. Bobby Jindal, who shares political advisers with Scott, floated a similar plan during his cameo run for the presidency in 2015.

Justice delayed, justice denied
In 1983, the homes of roughly 1,200 people were flooded because of a design flaw on an Interstate 12 bridge near Robert. Nearly 40 years later – and after several attempts by the state to renege on its responsibility to compensate flood victims and their heirs –  Louisiana has finally agreed to a $100 million settlement. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard has more on the long saga that played out over four decades and the settlement that finally brought the 1983 flood to a conclusion. 

About a third of the 1,200 plaintiffs in the class action have died while waiting for the state to pay its obligations. Their money will go to their heirs. Under the deal described by (Commissioner of Administration Jay) Dardenne, (Jean-Paul) Layrisson, (a New Orleans lawyer representing the plaintiffs) and others, state government will put about $45 million into a fund that already has about $15 million set aside. Those dollars will be added to about $6 million set aside during the Jindal administration. Louisiana also agrees to pay another $35 million next year. The total amount to be distributed will be about $101 million, give or take depending on interest.

The deal still has to be approved and funded by the Legislature. 

Don’t go backwards on health reforms
Federal pandemic relief helped stabilize health coverage, improved access and affordability and reduced the number of uninsured people in America. But it’s important that the White House builds on these successes, especially as families’ budgets are squeezed by inflation. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’s Sarah Lueck explains how an economic package that closes the Medicaid “coverage gap” and extends temporary tax credit improvements in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace would prevent the country from going backwards on health reforms. 

A growing body of research shows that the ACA Medicaid expansion boosted coverage rates for adults and children, and that it prevents premature deaths and protects against financial insecurity. It’s also key to reducing high and increasing rates of death and severe health complications among people who give birth, especially Black people. … In the ACA marketplace, meanwhile, enrollment surged thanks to premium tax credit enhancements in effect for 2021 and 2022. These enhancements eliminated or reduced premiums for millions of people and helped many people with low incomes afford more generous coverage with lower deductibles and other cost-sharing charges. As a result, a record 14.5 million people signed up during the ACA open enrollment period for 2022 — a 17 percent increase over the 2021 period.

Number of the Day
44.8% –
Percentage of Louisiana residents who would pay higher federal income taxes under Florida Sen. Rick Scott’s proposal to raise taxes on the poor (Source: ITEP)