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15.3.12

Inanities, hypocrisy mark opposition to education reform

A certain chief executive is fond of stating that in a political battle while his opponent may bring a knife he’ll bring a gun. Pity the opponents of education reform in Louisiana, whose facts and logic only allow them to bring a knife to the fight over that issue, as their remarks yesterday demonstrated.

The Louisiana House Education Committee took up the matter yesterday, recommending changing personnel and accountability laws that promise to improve school performance, as well as approving of expanding an existing scholarship voucher program that will increase options for families and spur greater achievement from public schools, along with more per student funding for them, through competition. Today, the Senate Education Committee does the same on related bills, both actions occurring unusually early in a legislative session. Gov. Bobby Jindal has backed enthusiastically these ideas.

Teachers’ unions, aided and abetted by some school districts whose politicians resent the reduced power and privilege they would have under changed laws, tried to flood the Capitol with members playing hooky from school, causing the closure of schools in a few districts. The same tactic will be tried today. As a result, the mob scene created caused security problems that forced extreme filtering of people into the largest committee room available, and restricting the flow those testifying. However, speakers for both sides were allowed to state their cases, causing the hearing to last about 16 hours, and postponing taking up another scheduled bill.

14.3.12

Leading LA print media disserve public on education debate

On the day that the Louisiana Legislature takes up consideration of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s signature education reforms, from the coverage of it by the state’s leading print media outlets of the package over the past weeks and up until today, their record sadly has been one of disserving the Louisiana reading public.

It’s difficult to conclude otherwise given how they have covered the issue. For example, the Baton Rouge Advocate dutifully reports about how the East Baton Rouge and Baker school districts found it expedient to cancel classes since so many teachers notified administrators that they would be absent. It also includes comments from others indicating the negative impact that the dereliction of duty would have on students, particularly as they gear up to take standardized exams, and on private schools who depend upon the district’s busing of students, which closure of the system for a day prevents running. All of this is factual, even balanced.

But what the article did not go into was the absolute union-driven cheerleading that lay behind the decisions of the Vermillion and St. Martin school boards to declare a blanket professional development day for tomorrow, with directives issued by Vermillion from them on strategies to take leave without loss of pay (if one is out of such days) and admonishments to make sure the district itself was not seen as politically connected to the effort. This context is crucial to understand that these politicians simply do not care about education, but rather in keeping unions off their back and in maintaining their power and privilege at the expense of children’s education and state economic development.

13.3.12

True conservative transformer Jindal ready to emerge?

Normally this space takes a look at, then grades, governors’ State of the State addresses that occur right at the opening of the regular session of the Louisiana Legislature, mere minutes after their completions. Not so this time, as everybody knew what was coming with this one. But what this one lacked in revelation, its novelty got made up for by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s tone and substance, perhaps telling us there’s a faster march here than generally expected.

The long march, we knew about already. Jindal has been a cautious reformer, where the product of extent of agenda and its speed did not equal much travelled – even if it made him the most conservative, reform-oriented governor in the state’s history, given the paucity of either coming from his predecessors. On a very few big changes, Jindal always took the path of least resistance by going far concerning policy changes with wide and broad consensus (such as with ethics reform), but pulled up considerably when tackling issues of greater controversy by tinkering at the margins (such as with fiscal reforms). Indeed, if not for a recessionary environment triggered and recovery from it stifled by, ironically enough, the policies of his partisan and ideological opponents, which he could use as justification for squeezing more efficiency and sloughing off its bloat, the ongoing right-sizing of state government never may have happened to the extent it did in his first four years.

But with this speech, Jindal served notice that he wasn’t going to play station-to-station baseball anymore. He brought out explicitly ideological language, and twice called opposition preferences “absurd.” This was Jindal not playing it safe by merely tooting his own horn blaring administration accomplishments to lend credibility and build support for a broad but slow-moving agenda stream, but rather his attempting to persuade by appealing broadly using a winning product in the marketplace of ideas. He tried to explain, mostly on the education reform issue complex, mostly in generalities, why his ideas were superior to those of his opponents.

12.3.12

Shallow editorial fails to understand theory, practive of govt

I’m not sure the editorialists at the Lake Charles American Press understand how stupid of an argument they make – if they are making any coherent argument at all – when they moan about how governors ought not exercise their right to fire at will political appointees in political positions. At the very least, it shows no understanding about, at the practical level, how government should work and, at the theoretical level, the philosophy behind representative government.

As previously noted, Gov. Bobby Jindal found it necessary to can a subordinate because, in effect, she testified to a legislative committee against one of his policy decisions. This was to move the functions of the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs – established and maintained by the governor through budgetary authority, not by separate statute – into the Department of Health and Hospitals. Like all agency heads, the job of running this entails both political and administrative responsibilities, and will be eliminated with that move.

These editorialists find something wrong, if not immoral, about this episode. They argue that the dismissal carries a “loud, clear, yet frightening message,” that it sends “a chilling message — dissenting opinions by Jindal’s department heads and undersecretaries will not be tolerated,” that it “demeans the political process,” and “[i]f department heads or undersecretaries cannot candidly testify before Senate and House committees without the threat of reprisal from the governor, the hearings become a farce.”

11.3.12

LA citizens give up hundreds of millions to win "Oscar"

No doubt state residents are all jazzed up about the recent Motion Picture Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film to a state outfit, Shreveport’s Moonbot Studios. We should be; after all, we paid for it.

While the state is not allowed to release exact names and figures, from comments made by the studio’s principals, they have accessed the state’s motion picture film tax credits, reducing their costs by an unknown amount. They aren’t the only ones; the latest data show that in 2009, the program rebated out $182.4 million, garnered only $24.8 million in net additional taxes attributable to that activity, for a net loss to taxpayers of $157.6 million, or a return of about 13.5 cents on the dollar.

This isn’t a new pattern. Since the first certified credits began trickling out in 2004 through 2009 (as found here, here, and here), they have produced $440 million more in forgone state tax collections than additional state taxes collected attributable to them. Hard data aren’t yet available for 2010 and 2011, but estimates suggest that figure even may have been doubled since. What we do know accounts for roughly $100 for every state resident.