Louisiana’s next governor will inherit a host of familiar problems when he or she takes control of state government in three short months. Few, if any, are more critical than ensuring that vulnerable children, who’ve been victimized by abuse or neglect, have the services and support they need. A Times-Picayune |Baton Rouge Advocate editorial welcomes the appointment of former Judge Kathleen Ritchey as Louisiana’s first State Child Ombudsman, but notes that much more work is needed:
Families are stressed: Louisiana has shown little improvement or backslid compared with other states in the number of diabetics, smokers, low-weight babies and deaths from drugs. It has some of the lowest rates for household income, people in the labor force and poverty. Louisiana has also had the country’s highest homicide rate for more than three decades. Edwards, in all fairness, restored some funding for DCFS after years of cuts. But even with booming state revenues lately, are children and the most stressed families real priorities?
Another downside to privatization
Low pay has created a shortage of school bus drivers in Louisiana’s second-largest school district, which in turn has prompted some East Baton Rouge Parish residents to call for privatizing the bus fleet. The Baton Rouge Advocate’s Charles Lussier reports that this is unlikely to yield any savings, thanks to a 2006 state law that requires school districts to cover the pension costs for drivers who would lose their jobs.
The law requires that school districts in Louisiana pay the remaining pension obligations, what’s known as “unfunded accrued liability,” for school employees who lose their jobs “through privatization, contracting, outsourcing, or any other means.” The districts can pay in installments over 10 years. Or they can cut a lump-sum check and avoid paying interest.
How to boost voter turnout
Experts have been warning for months that Louisiana’s statewide elections – the primary is on Saturday, if you haven’t heard – will be marked by low voter turnout. Zachary Roth, reporting for the Louisiana Illuminator, finds that eight states have embraced a reform that drives up voter participation: Universal vote by mail.
Advocates for mail voting say these findings haven’t gotten the attention they deserve, and that they should lead more states that want to boost turnout to adopt UVM, as it’s called. “[T]o a remarkable degree, most of the nation’s leading journalists, democracy reform organizations, and elected officials continue to largely ignore, downplay — or even dismiss outright – the potentially profound implications of these noticeably high turnout rates,” said a research paper released last month by the National Vote at Home Institute, which advocates for increased use of mail voting.
Who is most likely to overdose?
Overdose deaths in America, primarily from fentanyl, have risen sharply over the past decade and affect families of every income level and demographic group. But new data from the federal government finds that deaths are far more prevalent in specific occupations, such as construction and restaurant work, and have risen much faster among people with a high school education or less than among those with bachelor’s degrees or higher. The Washington Post’s Andrew Van Dam reports:
That observation dumps us square in the path of an onrushing freight train of academic research. Overdoses are often considered, along with suicide and alcoholism, to be deaths of despair. And since Anne Case and Angus Deaton set the train in motion in 2015, education (and its fellow traveler, income) has long been understood to be the fulcrum upon which your odds of an early death pivot.