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16.7.19

Reform, politics shape LA education progress

The initial round of Louisiana’s LEAP test score revelation for last academic year demonstrates the limits of educational reform and political will.

As a whole, the state’s students improved marginally. More substantial improvement, however, came at historically low-performing schools provided with more autonomy, resources, and demanding expectations, known as Transformation Zone schools. Each implemented a Tier 1 curriculum, recognized by the state as best aligned with and able to achieve state-mandated learning objectives. These also received additional funding from their districts (often grant money) and faced fewer constraints in administration, with many being charter schools.

By contrast, the original cockpit of state educational reform, Orleans Parish, suffered a small decline in scores on the standardized exam. This meant that over the past four years essentially no progress occurred in a district that, in that time span, went from having a majority of schools chartered and outside the Orleans Parish School District to having all schools become charters and under OPSD jurisdiction.

15.7.19

Shreveport follies threaten bonding ability

While Tropical Storm Barry may have whimpered its way through Shreveport, a political storm has brewed there that threatens to take down the city’s bonding capacity.

Last month, news leaked that the city delayed production of its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report required by the state annually on Jun. 30. Discrepancies in the city-run pension plan for public safety employees as well as questions over whether the city was making its payroll tax payments appear to have prompted the request.

The payroll problems predated the Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins Administration, but it has not confirmed that the problems didn’t continue into 2019. Regardless, this piqued the interest of the three Republican members of the city council – Grayson Boucher, James Flurry, and John Nickelson – plus Democrat LeVette Fuller into having the body vote the city into launching an investigation of the matter.

14.7.19

N.O. Luddites put ideology over people

You have to admire ruefully the Luddites in New Orleans for their ideological fervor: they’d rather be right than save themselves and the people they allege to represent in the neighborhood of $100 million.

They’ve had their panties in a wad ever since the City Council reaffirmed a decision to have Entergy New Orleans construct a gas “peaker” plant for use in times of stress on power provision and emergencies (such as a tropical storm slamming the area) for a city with no capacity to generate its own power. They argued for all sorts of alternatives to this relatively clean power, but none are practical or cost effective, or both.

Nonetheless, the faith in their case is such that they pursued multiple legal avenues to overturn the decision. With Louisiana’s weak tradition of rule by law – its political culture too tolerant of men on horseback who bend rules and norms to achieve their desired outcomes – they felt they could hit on an activist judge willing to read into the law their agenda.

11.7.19

Shreveport must scrap liquor law favoritism

If Louisiana ranks as the state with the most barriers to entry in business, Shreveport may be the state’s major city most restrictive in that category.

As recently demonstrated in a suit concerning useless requirements for braiding hair, the state has the most onerous occupational licensing regime among all. And local governments can pile on additional strictures that can be at least as needless.

That has come to the forefront as an issue concerning sales of unprepared food and high-content alcohol in Shreveport. A new business called Corks & Cuts located in the extreme southern portion of the city – an area recently annexed because of the high-end retail and commercial residences springing up there – wishes to sell spirits and steak cuts. But Ordinance 10-84 prohibits such sales unless a wall of at least 6 feet separates the area with alcohol from that where other goods are sold, and that separate entrances exist for each area. The owners complain that this would require renting the next-door retail space and make $60,000 in modifications.

10.7.19

More reason not to hike LA minimum wage

Need another good reason to understand the utter folly of attempts to make Louisiana raise its minimum wage? Just observe those touchscreen checkouts when you walk into a store selling groceries.

By now, informed individuals know full well how the minimum wage costs jobs and how, because almost no sole breadwinners of families work full-time at the minimum wage and even fewer of them are younger than 25, the modal category of such workers are young, recent job force entrants who have no dependents and live in a household with others who are employed (particularly when removing the 70 percent who technically earn below it but more than make up for that in tips). Single parents with older children working full-time at minimum wage are hardly more common than unicorns.

The minimum wage by nature serves as a job training tool, to acclimate new workers to certain desirable traits such as punctuality and dependability, while imparting certain skills and motivating individuals to work better so as to deserve a raise – remember that wages vary directly with productivity – or to move into a job that pays more. In fact, its artificiality in setting a floor on pay induces economic inefficiency by overpaying for the actual productive value of the work, denying a more efficient use of that capital.

9.7.19

Schroder sequester bedevils ironic Edwards

Irony stares Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards right in the face as Republican Treasurer John Schroder hoists him on his own petard.

Last week, Schroder announced that he would not authorize a move of $25 million from the unclaimed property account to the general fund as budgeted. The fund keeps monies owed to the public by state government, which in its balance floats between $850 million and $900 million. Around $88 million comes in every year, and until this year creditor entities typically claimed only around $30 million annually.

However, the balance doesn’t go higher because the Legislature siphons off tens of millions annually. R.S. 9:165.1 allows $15 million yearly to go towards completion of Interstate 49, but the rest goes into the general fund. Further, in the past year repayment efforts have improved considerably, meaning in the future the gap between retained and claimed will shrink and leave fewer dollars theoretically available for immediate use. In fact, the gap’s magnitude shrunk so much that Schroder reported difficulty in paying off successful claims in a timely fashion.

8.7.19

Arrests often arrest NW LA political ambition

History would suggest that Shreveport City Councilor Levette Fuller just put a cap on a  promising political career.

The first-term Democrat was arrested last week on suspicion of driving while intoxicated and texting while driving. Specifically, police found her vehicle stopped in the middle of the road in the wee hours of the morning, where she informed them that while texting she may have hit another car and had drank two to three glasses of wine. A later social media post on a site advertising itself as connected to her Council position seemed to come off as an admission and apology.

Although on the Council just a few months, Fuller already had made an impression that suggested she might aspire to higher office. She won in her district that has a small black majority and in her short period in office developed a reputation for fiscal restraint, opposing intrusive regulation and laws, and promoting transparency, bucking controversial decisions made by another black Democrat elected rookie, Mayor Adrian Perkins.

7.7.19

Edwards displays vindictiveness again

Legislators ideologically opposed to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, if this turns out to be his last round of line-item vetoes, won’t miss his vindictiveness.

That trait he put on clear display with decisions concerning HB 2, Louisiana’s capital outlay budget. Often, governors will use this power as a weapon to punish legislators who champion measures not only contrary to his worldview about politics, but also which have the potential to make him look bad.

Edwards used the power sparsely in this election year, excising only six items out of over $4 billion worth (although a distinct portion represents only a pledge, not the actual disbursement of cash or intention to issue bonds). But each sent a message.

4.7.19

Independence Day, 2019

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Easter Sunday, Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Thursday, Jul. 4 being Independence Day, I invite you to explore the links connected to this page.

3.7.19

Bad sampling boosts Edwards poll support

It’s a relatively bad sample.

That explains why results from a mid-April poll by Market Research Insight, directed by Verne Kennedy, varied significantly from a late April survey conducted by JMC Analytics’ John Couvillion. The former, among other things, called the reelection without a runoff by Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards likely, while the latter concluded Edwards would be unlikely to avoid a runoff with one of two major Republican candidates.

Since other earlier polling generally had backed the JMC interpretation, observers questioned the MRI conclusion. That poll continued a series stretching back years, commissioned by business and political elites of whom now one is the owner of the Baton Rouge Advocate, John Georges, where the results appeared.