Mixed news on national report card

Mixed news on national report card

Math and reading scores for America’s fourth- and eighth-grade students plummeted last year compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The scores on the “nation’s report card” were the latest indicator of the massive learning loss sparked by the pandemic-related school closures. Louisiana students largely followed national trends, with the notable exception of fourth-grade reading scores. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Will Sentell reports that Louisiana was one of only two states that saw improved reading scores: 

“I think we have to celebrate the fact that with the literacy crisis in this state we have the largest growth in the country for fourth-grade reading,” state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said. …  Nationally, fourth-grade math scores fell five points; fourth-grade reading fell three points; eighth-grade math fell eight points and eighth-grade reading fell three points. In Louisiana fourth-grade math scores fell three points; fourth-grade reading rose two points; eighth-grade math fell six points and eighth-grade reading dropped one point. “I think it shows relative to the rest of the country that our recovery strategy is working,” Brumley said.

Non-unanimous jury ban not retroactive 
Louisiana voters in 2018 overwhelmingly overturned a Jim Crow law that allowed people to be convicted of crimes even when some of their jurors did not believe they were guilty. Two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it did not affect earlier split-jury convictions, leaving as many as 1,500 people in Louisiana imprisoned by divided verdicts. On Friday, the Louisiana Supreme Court sided with its federal counterpart that the state’s ban on non-unanimous convictions was not retroactive. The AP’s Kevin McGill reports:

Justice Piper Griffin dissented. “That the Louisiana Constitution of 1974 somehow cleansed the non-unanimous jury system of its racial animus and impact is an untenable position,” she wrote. Justice James Genovese wrote a partial dissent, saying new trials are warranted in some nonunanimous cases. “I find that a new trial should be ordered in cases wherein an African American defendant can prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that an African American juror dissented from the majority voting to convict defendant of the charged crime,” Genovese wrote.

Student debt relief plan blocked 
President Joe Biden’s administration was set to begin processing applications – and changing balances – for its student loan cancellation plan on Sunday. But a Friday evening ruling from a federal appeals court has halted attempts to provide relief to millions of borrowers. The block stems from a lawsuit from a group of Republican-led states, which also has GOP supporters on Capitol HIll. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, in an op-ed for USA Today, addresses concerns that the lawsuit will stop relief:

These same Republican attorneys general and officials, however, didn’t file lawsuits when $58.5 billion in pandemic relief loans were forgiven for their state’s business owners. They didn’t oppose $2 trillion in tax cuts to the highest earning businesses and individuals as part of the Trump tax giveaway. And they didn’t complain when Republican Members of Congress got millions of dollars of their own Paycheck Protection Program loans forgiven by the federal government last year. It’s only when relief is going to working and middle-class Americans that these elected officials have a problem. 

Clean Water Act at 50
The Clean Water Act – legislation that reduced pollution in our nation’s waterways – was signed into law by President Richard Nixon 50 years ago this month. While the legislation was bipartisan in nature in 1972, it now faces threats from the Supreme Court to limit its power. Kristi Trail, executive director of the Pontchartrain Conservancy, explains the legislation’s impact on Lake Pontchartrain and surrounding areas. 

It really helped to drive the work to clean up the Pontchartrain Basin. Before the Clean Water Act, there was untreated sewage that was routinely discharged in the local waterways, and it was really common all across the country. Even in the ‘60s around here, there were a lot of parts of Jefferson Parish that relied on septic tanks and those discharged into Lake Pontchartrain. But the Clean Water Act drove a lot of local sewage infrastructure, and that drastically improved the lake’s water quality. It also regulated agricultural and industrial runoff. We don’t really have a lot of industrial runoff into the basin; a lot of that goes into the river. But for us, at least, it meant that dairy farmers had to comply with sanitation rules, and that helped a lot as well.

Didja Know? Podcast
On the latest edition of Didja Know? LBP executive director Jan Moller and policy analyst Jackson Voss explain the eight proposed constitutional amendments that voters will see on their ballots for the Nov. 8 primary elections. Click here to listen

Number of the Day
$727 million – Louisiana state budget surplus from the 2021-22 fiscal year. Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Legislature will divide up the money during the 2023 regular session next spring. (Source: Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget)