Short-term fix for a long-term problem

Short-term fix for a long-term problem

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 people enter the teaching profession. New legislation, which advanced out of the House earlier this week, aims to provide a short-term fix to Louisiana’s teacher shortage. House Bill 22 by Rep. Rick Edmonds looks to lure retired teachers back in the classroom by increasing the amount of money they are able to make – from 25% of their final average compensation to 50% –  while still retaining their full retirement benefits. The Advoocate’s Will Sentell reports

Rep. Larry Bagley, R-Stonewall, who said he may be the lone retired teacher in the Legislature, asked Edmonds why he limited the pay ceiling to 50%. Edmonds said he concluded that was the highest amount likely to win final approval in the Legislature. Officials have said that, if the bill becomes law, teachers who pursue the opportunity will likely work select hours to extend their value before they reach their salary ceiling. The House added an amendment offered by Edmonds that would narrow the list of eligible teachers to those certified to teach math, science, English language arts and any teacher’s aide. The bill would be in effect for three years and apply those who retired before Dec. 31, 2021.

While the $1,500 teacher pay increase proposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards is a step in the right direction, it’s not nearly enough at a time when other Southern states are making bigger strides. Business lobbyists, without a hint of irony, oppose any effort to reign in Louisiana’s generous industrial tax giveaway, yet complain that Louisiana lacks the educated workers and strong infrastructure that other states use to attract investment. Retired professor David Lindenfeld explains in a letter to The Advocate how these two issues make Louisiana a tough sell for teachers. 

One story tells how we are behind neighboring states in teacher salaries, even with a proposed pay raise. Also, according to WalletHub, we rank 50th in quality of public education. Any wonder why teachers wouldn’t want to come here? The other story tells of business lobbyists opposing a bill that would guarantee local governing bodies such as school boards the ability to have a say in how much of their tax revenues they would receive. One hears the argument that such exemptions are needed to attract businesses because our poorly trained workforce is at a disadvantage. 

Streamlining federal disaster relief
Louisiana is almost always recovering from one or more natural disasters, and local communities typically rely on federal Community Development Block Grant aid to help rebuild. But that aid can be slow and cumbersome to arrive, as states have to meet complex rules established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development before they can access money appropriated by Congress. As Route-Fifty’s Kery Murakami reports, President Joe Biden’s administration is proposing to streamline the process to make it easier and more predictable for states: 

Under federal procedures, HUD has to start the grant process anew each time the money is appropriated. This means writing new requirements and publishing them in the Federal Register. States then have to submit an action plan on how they plan to use the dollars. … (Biden’s) plan would “require HUD to establish consistent regulatory requirements for CDBG-DR across all future disasters, eliminating the current practice of establishing new requirements in response to each supplemental appropriation.” Those new rules would emphasize helping disadvantaged communities and prioritizing resilience to future disasters, the proposal said.

Fixing the ‘family glitch’
The insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act are supposed to provide subsidized health insurance policies for people who can’t get such coverage through their jobs and make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. But a glitch in the law’s interpretation meant that millions of people whose company-sponsored family coverage was unaffordable did not qualify for federal marketplace subsidies. Now that glitch is being fixed, reports Karen Davenport for Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms

The IRS’s proposed new rules, grounded in a revised interpretation of the law, consider the affordability of the worker’s total cost of employer-sponsored insurance for themselves and their family when determining eligibility for marketplace premium and cost-sharing assistance. If the cost of a family premium exceeds the ACA’s affordability threshold, family members will qualify for premium tax credits and possibly cost-sharing reductions. … The most obvious beneficiaries of this fix are individuals who are caught in the family glitch – including 2.2 million dependent children. The Biden Administration notes that 200,000 uninsured individuals will gain coverage and nearly 1 million people will pay less for health insurance under this proposal.

Formerly incarcerated struggle to find housing
Many formerly incarcerated people struggle to secure housing because landlords routinely reject applicants with criminal records. The Fair Chance in Housing Act by Rep. Matthew Williard aimed to prevent landlords from using a lease applicant’s criminal record against them if they were convicted of a nonviolent felony more than three years ago or of a violent felony more than five years ago. Unfortunately the legislation was watered down after opposition from landlords and Louisiana realtors. The Louisiana’s Illuminators Greg LaRose reports on the scaled-back legislation – House Bill 1063 – which is scheduled for debate on the House floor on Wednesday. 

Maxwell Ciardullo, a policy analyst with the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, helped craft Williard’s proposal. It originally declared expunged and pardoned convictions, juvenile records and arrests that didn’t result in a conviction off limits when it came to housing background checks. Those exceptions were removed for the bill to gain committee approval. “It would be hard to find a non-discriminatory reason why you would want to consider an expunged record. The state and a judge have already agreed that this record should be confidential and not on someone’s record,” Ciardullo said in an interview with the Illuminator. “Similarly, a conviction that was vacated, overturned or pardoned, it’d be really difficult to find a non discriminatory reason why you think that you should be able to deny someone a home on that kind of record.”

Number of the Day
– Percentage of parents receiving the expanded Child Tax Credit who reported using the credit to purchase food and beverages, the most common use of the credit. Sixty-three percent of families with very low food security reported using the credit to buy groceries (Source: Health Affairs