Lawmakers aren’t prioritizing kids

Lawmakers aren’t prioritizing kids

Louisiana’s early care and education system is currently being supported by $200 million in temporary federal funding that needs to be replaced next year with state funding, or else 16,000 children will lose access to essential programs. Gov. John Bel Edwards’ executive budget proposed to cover $52 million of the shortfall, which would still prevent as many 4,000 young children from losing access. But so far the Legislature has mostly balked. An Advocate editorial argues that kids should be a priority as budget negotiations go down to the wire.  

We were astonished to see the House cut Edwards’ proposed funding for early childhood and immediately add about the same amount of money for local projects. And we were disappointed when the Senate reinstated only $14 million, a sliver of the original $52 million ask. For reasons that nobody bothered to explain, the long-term future of children was put on hold for shorter-term priorities. … he sad part is that, even when lawmakers from all sides claim to be in favor of helping kids make it in life, the money to launch them remains a low priority year after year. Until that changes, nothing much else will.


Anti-LGBTQ+ bills head to Edwards’ desk
Three anti-LGBTQ+ bills – and possibly a fourth – are heading to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk for a signature or veto this week. State lawmakers have targeted transgender health care for minors, use of pronouns and the discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools, reflecting a national agenda pushed by conservatives. The Illuminator’s Piper Hutchinson reports that the attacks on Louisiana’s LGBTQ+ community come as real problems go unaddressed. 

Sen. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, opposed the proposal (House Bill 466), saying it was based on fear rather than a real problem in Louisiana.  “We have an obvious teacher shortage, and this is another thing teachers are going to have to be concerned about… further, no examples could be cited… as to why this legislation is necessary besides fear,” Duplessis said. Horton’s bill is similar to a Florida law referred to by critics as a “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Her proposal is much broader and would apply to K-12 grades, whereas Florida’s law applies only through the third grade.


Film tax credits extended
Louisiana taxpayers would continue to subsidize film and TV productions under legislation that received final approval from the Legislature on Tuesday. House Speaker Clay Schexnayder’s House Bill 562, which now heads to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk, would extend the state’s film tax credit for six years beyond its original 2025 expiration date. The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports on the debate surrounding the return on investments of the lucrative credits. 

For example, a 2022 study by the state Department of Revenue found that every dollar given to film and TV producers returns only seven cents in taxes. … But when lawmakers considered HB 562 in committees, supporters of the tax break filled legislative committee rooms with film and television business workers. … The tax credit “appears to have a positive economic impact on the state’s economy because it generates more household income than it costs the state, but the credit does not generate enough state tax revenue to make up for the revenue that the state loses,” reported the Louisiana Legislative Auditor in May.


Summer food insecurity
Approximately 640,000 Louisianans, including nearly 236,000 children, don’t have enough to eat, according to Feeding Louisiana. Food advocates are warning about rising rates of food insecurity over the summer months as students lose access to school meal programs. BRProud’s Sudan Britton reports: 

“Understanding the kids are out of school and there’s more need for food, more meals because they’re not getting their free or reduced school lunch program,” said President and CEO of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank, Mike Manning. He’s encouraging the public to donate more as a way of helping locals who can’t cover the cost of food. “It’s very important for us to increase our distributions and it’s a challenge for us at the same time because we see our supplies and our resources of food coming in go down during the summer,” Manning said. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Congress allowed waivers for summer feeding programs. Unfortunately, those expired in 2022. Route Fifty’s Daniel C. Vock reports on how those benefits helped feed twice as many kids during the pandemic. 

With schools shut down and summer programs canceled, the federal government waived more than a dozen rules governing summer meals.  That allowed at least 5 million children to receive free meals during the summer of 2020. “Simply put, these waivers kept more kids fed,” said Liana Washburn, a nutrition researcher at Mathematica, and one of the co-authors of the study, which was conducted for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We believe lessons learned in 2020 can inform how to improve participation and access to child nutrition programs during the school year and in summer months, despite the end of the public health emergency.”


Number of the Day
$72.90 – Labor productivity, defined by the value of the goods and services produced on average by an hour’s work, in Louisiana. (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics via Stateline