The Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on students and teachers, who struggle with low pay and increasingly have found themselves at the center of the nation’s new culture wars. As a result, major teacher shortages are prompting school districts across the country to cut corners by allowing unqualified people to fill classrooms. The Washington Post’s Hannah Natanson reports:
Why are America’s schools so short-staffed? Experts point to a confluence of factors including pandemic-induced teacher exhaustion, low pay and some educators’ sense that politicians and parents — and sometimes their own school board members — have little respect for their profession amid an escalating educational culture war that has seen many districts and states pass policies and laws restricting what teachers can say about U.S. history, race, racism, gender and sexual orientation, as well as LGBTQ issues.
Louisiana’s massive child welfare worker shortage
The state Department of Children and Family Services, the agency that oversees Louisiana’s foster care, adoption and family services, is struggling to attract workers and foster parents. While DCFS has made some changes to improve the state’s foster care system, years of budget cuts, high caseloads and low pay have made it difficult for the agency to retain caseworkers. As Gambit’s Kaylee Poche explains, the disinvestment in our state’s foster care workers is affecting their ability to attract foster parents.
The shortage of child welfare workers and foster families aren’t unrelated either. According to Walters, foster families sometimes have a hard time getting in touch with their foster child’s caseworker because that worker is so swamped. “We don’t have enough caseworkers and so there are times that foster parents feel like they’re being ignored,” she says. “They need help and they’re calling their worker, and their worker’s not calling them back, and so they feel neglected.”
A rebound in LEAP scores
The 2021-22 school year saw the vast majority of Louisiana public school students return to in-person classroom instruction after the previous year was interrupted by pandemic-related closures and remote learning. Perhaps not coincidentally, student scores on the standardized LEAP test improved modestly – though they have still not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports that math, English and science scores improved, while social studies scores were flat.
“Despite a global health pandemic, despite multiple hurricanes that have impacted us, despite winter storms in the north, our kids are on the rise,” state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said during a press conference at Bluff Middle School in Prairieville. Brumley acknowledged that challenges remain, especially among third-graders and in social studies achievement. “We recognize that we have a long way to go,” he told reporters. Others noted the latest results remain well below even modest levels students scored three years ago.
All eyes on Sinema
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Sinema of Arizona is the last remaining hurdle to passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which would raise taxes on profitable corporations and make historic investments in fighting climate change, reducing health care costs and lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Axios’ Alayna Treene reports that Sinema wants to rework the carefully crafted deal in exchange for her vote to include funding for drought and “water security” in the Southwest, and is unhappy with provisions in the bill that tax billionaires.
On taxes, Sinema has concerns with the structure of the 15% corporate minimum “book tax” and whether the burden could get passed down to employees, the sources said. Sinema supports cracking down on tax avoidance, but has long voiced her opposition to closing the carried interest loophole. She’s concerned that the provision, which would contribute $14 billion toward paying down the bill’s $740 billion total, could undermine economic competitiveness, the sources said.
The bill now heads to the Senate’s nonpartisan parliamentarian, who will decide which policies can advance via the reconciliation process, bypassing a Senate filibuster. Politico’s Caitlin Emma and Marianne Levine report on what could be forced out:
Democrats plan to try for a major add to their bigger legislation: a $35 per month cap on what people can pay out-of-pocket for insulin. They know full well that Republicans could easily nix it; the measure raises an obvious red flag under the budget rules because it may target the finances of drug companies more than it affects government coffers. Under Senate rules, each piece of Democrats’ bill must produce a significant effect on federal spending, revenues and debt. Democrats have to show that any proposed policy changes still primarily affect the federal budget and are not simply a “side effect.” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the top Republican on the Senate HELP Committee, said Wednesday that the insulin provision would draw a GOP challenge.
Number of the Day
80.9% – Percentage of America’s long-term residential care workers who are women. The work of caring for people as they age is strenuous and low-paid, and disproportionately done by immigrants and Black women (Source: Economic Policy Institute).