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15.1.15

LA bishops wise to disregard ideology-driven agenda


Social Justice U. strikes again with a pushing of a political ideology that carries the university further away from the spiritual to a secular agenda, one that Louisiana dioceses seem willing recklessly to follow that only can reduce its influence in public policy on things that matter.



Researchers at Loyola University in New Orleans, a nominally Catholic college under the auspices of the religious order Society of Jesus, has for years proclaimed itself “Social Justice U.” and is replete with trendy features to back its boast, such as its community participating in various marches and vigils to protest the outrage of the day, and with various centers with the phrase in their names or in their mission statements. One such unit, the Social Research Institute, decided to create a report arguing that not only should society see that all people live decently, but that they live quite “a modest, dignified life.”



According to its definition of this level, that equates, at a bare minimum for a couple with one child, to around $55,000 to ensure “economic security,” claiming this constituted a “no frills” existence. Contrast this with the federal poverty limit – the amount below which many welfare programs kick in, although some start lower and some begin higher – of the same kind of family, which is presently about $20,000. For this $35,000 annual difference, the authors recommend, it is the responsibility of people through their government to compensate.

14.1.15

Reducing testing's role invites regression in education


Louisiana’s education policy-makers need to resist any changes at the federal level that may prompt foes of reforms in this area over the past few years to claim these as justifications for retreating down the long path of educational excellence, and embrace state-based school accountability alterations that will complement these reforms.



This week, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s committee dealing with school and district accountability heard a report it commissioned on potential improvements to its rating system for schools. Currently, while it varies among levels of schools, all scales used take as its major input, at least half of the appropriate rating, achievement of students on tests and then a letter grade gets assigned as a result to the school.



The study recommended that the grade be computed at least half on aggregate student academic growth rather than level of achievement, mimicking that component for assessment of many teachers in schools, in that level of achievement has too many exogenous factors such as socioeconomic background of students affecting it. Also suggested was to create more gradations in the letter grades, such as awarding plusses and minuses, because otherwise movement from one category to another took such an amount of change that this could encourage staffs from satisficing with a particular non-poor grade and discourage them from trying to move out of it if much effort would not be rewarded with an incrementally higher grading.

13.1.15

Legislature must lead in more LA pay raise reform


That the more Louisiana’s system of evaluating the majority of its employees has changed when it really remained the same illustrates the unfinished business remaining to creating a more efficient state civil service.



Last week, the Department of State Civil Service issued statistics regarding the past fiscal year’s evaluations of the roughly 39,000 employees that fall under this rating system for civil servants. While around 3 percent could not be rated mostly for reason of insufficient length of time of employment, about 96 percent ended up qualifying for a raise, although about a tenth of them will not have one as their agencies’ budgets lack funds to deliver it. This concluded the first full implementation of changes made in 2011 that at the time sparked controversy.



Needlessly, as it turned out. After pulling back on a more far-reaching overhaul, Gov. Bobby Jindal accepted a much more tepid set of adjustments that only marginally created incentives for a more efficient workforce through compensation policy. The data from last year verified that, from a system which had raised almost every employee’s wages annually and almost always with uniformity, the state now has a system that awards about as many of these proportionally with a slightly greater range of variation. Administration officials asserted still this represented improvement because with a different worldview installed that spells out expectations of employees that this approach would raise the standard of performance.

12.1.15

Unproductive LA tax credits finally may get whacked

As the good news/bad news trajectory of oil prices overall negatively impacts Louisiana’s bottom line, political cover to rid the state of counterproductive tax exceptions could be at hand.



It’s not so much that revenues from the state’s excise tax on extracted oil comprise a large part of the state’s budget – the 12.5 percent levy’s proceeds making up about a fifth of budgeted revenues – but that a shortfall can be spread only around a limited portion of the entire budget. When last year voters unwisely locked in reimbursement rates for nursing homes and hospitals and cordoned off tens of millions of dollars to build artificial reefs until the end of time and still never could spend it all, that put over 80 percent of the budget off limits to reductions in the normal budgeting process for next fiscal year (most of this money could be touched if a budget adjustment during a fiscal year would occur with supermajority legislative approval). This means for FY 2016 one area is set up most for reductions, higher education, and another somewhat so, what has been left unprotected in health care.



The latter, since its levels of expenditures are the largest in the budget, presents an opportunity to cut with the pain most spread out, even after a few hundred million bucks got removed from the equation with the vote last fall. However, it lately has borne mid-year cuts when necessary, and another unfortunate development new to the calculus is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, in order to create the ruse that it actually was not going to cost the country extravagantly, dramatically has lowered its temporarily boosted reimbursement rates for Medicaid to doctors. The state holding back even more from the rate only would compound the impact of lower quality care through greater wait times and increased costs by pushing recipients to emergency rooms.

11.1.15

Willing misdiagnosis perpetuates belief in nonstory



Recently, in the context of Rep. Steve Scalise inadvertently speaking about taxes over a dozen years ago unbeknownst to him to a handful of white supremacists, this space noted that the political left needs to embellish the episode in order to fit it into its narrative, despite having to buy into some incredible assumptions in order to accomplish that. The thinking of its members that enables them to overcome this high degree of credulity merits discussion.



Given the insignificance of the event, its datedness, and paucity of recorded evidence concerning it, two stories have emerged about it. The much more plausible of them (an excellent recounting of the nuances of both is here) is that the same guy, Kenny Knight, who headed the group also headed a neighborhood organization and scheduled the former to meet after the latter in the same location. Republican Scalise in 2002 was invited to speak to the organization and did so on tax issues, knowing nothing of the existence of the other group nor that it had some of its members wander in early to listen to him. Both Knight, who never was a political ally of Scalise, and his then-paramour confirm this account of events, both of whom could gain lasting political relevance and immortality if they argued Scalise knowingly and willingly spoke to the group; they gain nothing to say otherwise. What little documentation exists of the group’s meeting makes no mention of an appearance scheduled for Scalise.



The implausible version contends they, for unknown reasons, are covering up for Scalise or sanitizing his appearance, with this resting on that after the group’s meeting the existence of a couple of Internet forum posts mentioned his speaking and that a political opponent of Scalise’s, Kenny Lassalle, said he ran another organization in that same neighborhood, that Knight was antagonistic to it, and that Knight’s group didn’t exist, backed by that it was not registered with the Secretary of State as a nonprofit corporation. The holes in this should be obvious: dissatisfied with Lassalle’s organization, Knight could have formed a rump organization to counter and which like many such organizations he did not formally incorporate it, and the consideration of cui bono shows that Lassalle has everything to gain by trying to damage Scalise politically.