Making a difference for children

Making a difference for children

Home visiting programs are proven to improve life outcomes for children and parents who face difficult circumstances. More than 2,000 Louisiana families – and 150,000 nationwide – benefit from home visits,  where trained professionals teach parenting skills and connect people with health, nutrition and other programs that can help children thrive. But the modest federal funding that supports the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood home visiting program is set to expire on Sept. 30 unless Congress acts. St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne explains in a guest column for The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate

Research shows that these visits can improve numerous outcomes, including prevention of child abuse, consistent positive parenting, maternal and child health and child development and school readiness. Evidence is at the root of the strategy. All state and local governments that receive federal funds for home visits must demonstrate measurable improvement and meet benchmarks, including benchmarks related to crime reduction and domestic violence.

Foreshadowing a Louisiana clean-water crisis 
Some Louisiana leaders are warning that the clean-water crisis playing out in Jackson could happen in their state. The factors that caused Jackson’s water to become undrinkable – flooding, plus decades of underinvestment and deferred maintenance – also plague water systems in the Pelican State. Recent water problems in St. Joseph, St. Tammany Parish and Shreveport highlight this reality. The Advocate’s Faimon A. Roberts III reports on the decrepit state of Louisiana’s water infrastructure and how leaders are trying to prevent their own crisis:

Many water systems around Louisiana are aging. In 2017, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated that roughly half of the more than 1,200 water systems in the state had infrastructure that is more than 50 years old. … For many utilities, their customer base has shrunk or become accustomed to years of low water rates that haven’t kept pace with costs. Maintenance and upgrades have been deferred, meaning many of the pipes, pumps and filtration systems are decades old. New equipment is expensive, and rural communities often lack enough residents or the will to pay for it. In addition, increasingly severe storms and floods heighten the danger for older systems.

Unions are on a roll
Decades of stagnant wages, the long-term fallout of the Great Recession and the economic turmoil from the Covid-19 pandemic has shifted public opinion toward workers. Seventy-one percent of Americans support unions, the highest levels since 1965, according to new polling from Gallup. The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne Jr. explains how in the age of polarization and disagreements, the pro-labor shift is uniting Americans and stirring action. 

At a time when so many attitudes divide along racial lines, Gallup found that Whites and non-Whites were equally pro-labor. Approval spanned generations — at 72 percent for those under 54, and 70 percent among those 55 and over. Support for organized labor, close to unanimous among Democrats, is in fact bipartisan: 89 percent of Democrats approved of unions, as did 68 percent of independents and 56 percent of Republicans. Opinion is translating into action. Vox’s Rani Molla documented how well-publicized union victories — at Amazon, Apple, Chipotle, REI, Starbucks and Trader Joe’s — are just the most visible part of a larger trend. (Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, owns The Post.) 

Paperwork hamstrings new teachers 
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. Despite this shortage, 6,500 aspiring teachers in Louisiana are waiting on paperwork from the state so they can begin teaching or take on other roles. As The Advocates’ Will Sentell explains, there’s ambiguity about the reasons and composition of the backlog. 

The backlog includes both first-time teachers and educators changing their certification, such as those beginning administrative jobs. How many of the roughly 6,500 in the backlog fall into each category is unclear. Officials also said they could not say what the typical backlog is. The influx of applications has exploded in recent years, from about 28,000 in 2018 to nearly 37,000 expected this year. A total of 25,000 applications have already arrived at the state Department of Education with four months left in the calendar year. Between 900 and 1,100 applications arrive at the state Department of Education weekly.

Number of the Day
– Louisiana’s rank for “best and worst” states to work in. Louisiana fared poorly on wage policies, but scored above the national average on worker protection policies (Source: Oxfam)