School accountability overhaul draws controversy

School accountability overhaul draws controversy

Louisiana students’ low performance on standardized tests, including LEAP and the ACT college readiness exam, do not measure up to the high scores received by their high schools. While only 37% of students scored at the second-highest achievement level, 70% of Louisiana high schools received an A or B ranking from the state. As The Advocate’s Will Sentell explains, new accountability standards aimed at toughening the requirement for schools to receive an A ranking have split the state’s education community. 

Under the plan, students would have to pass two college-level exams, earn 12 hours of college credit, and meet other criteria for schools to land an A rating. Students who qualify for a high school diploma without additional credits would generate no points for their school. Superintendents contend those and other changes will lead to a wholesale drop in high school letter grades. They also argue that students in poor and rural school districts will have few opportunities to earn the college credits needed for an A rating.

Big bet on natural gas coming up short 
For years, utility companies in Louisiana made the correct assumption that natural gas was the cheapest way to provide power. But recent spikes in natural gas prices have led  to hundreds of millions of dollars in increased costs on customers’ electric bills. The Advocate’s Sam Karlin looks at the root cause of our high utility bills, and asks whether companies should have invested in renewable energy much sooner. 

All told, the share of Louisiana’s power that comes from natural gas went from about 50% in 2010 to 76% in 2022, according to the Energy Information Administration. …  “We’re in a hell of a mess now,” Commissioner Foster Campbell said at a recent PSC meeting. “Because if we had been practicing renewables 10 years ago or so, we’d be better off.” Entergy spokesperson David Freese said the company’s fleet of gas plants has “produced some of the lowest rates in the nation over the last decade.” He said if Entergy had invested in large-scale solar plants five or 10 years ago, customers would have paid more when gas prices were low.

Inflation hits back-to-school supplies
As schools continue to open across Louisiana, parents have been confronted with the increased costs of their childrens’ glue, pens, backpacks and other essential items. That’s because inflation is driving up the prices of back to school supplies, causing shoppers to spend much more on the same items than they did in 2021, even as their number of transactions decrease. CNN’s Parija Kavilanz reports on how inflations is marking up back to school supplies: 

For all varieties of 3M’s Scotch-branded tape, the average price surged nearly 70% this year compared to 2021. The cost of two other popular school supplies — Sharpies and Elmer’s Glue — are up nearly 55% and 30% respectively in 2022. Mandelbaum said shoppers are paying 12% more for BIC pens, too. Elsewhere, prices for popular JanSport backpacks are about 2% higher, Nike sneakers have increased 12%, the average price for Hanes underwear is up 6.4% and TikTok-approved, Gen Z favorite Dickies pants cost 13.6% more.

The growing gig economy
The U.S. unemployment rate is at historic lows while the number of new jobs listings is at historic highs. But despite one of the best job markets in history, gig work is still thriving. While the flexibility of working in the gig economy draws in many workers, many are reliant on these jobs for additional income because of rising costs. The New York Times’ Lydia DePillis reports: 

As the cost of rent and food soars, gig work can supplement primary jobs that don’t provide enough to live on or are otherwise unsatisfying. Lexi Gervis, an executive at a financial management app called Steady, said that users’ data showed that more people were involved in gig work — and that the average gig income per worker grew — from the start of the pandemic through this summer. “We were seeing this move towards multiple income streams, because that work was picked up as a stopgap and then continued,” Dr. Gervis said.

Troy Mouton with the U.S. Labor Department writes in The Advocate that some “gig” workers, particularly in construction and home-health industries, may be misclassified by their employers and should be entitled to workplace benefits such as health insurance and paid vacations. 

These industries employ essential workers who help to care for people in great need and make critical infrastructure repairs and improvements. These workers deserve to be classified properly to ensure their employers pay them every dollar that they earn.

Number of the Day
22% – Percentage of Louisiana charter schools that did not meet state targets for enrollment of economically disadvantaged students at least once between the 2016-17 and 2021-22 school years. (Source: Louisiana Legislative Auditor)