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Stuck on stupid VI: Schools, Saints, and budgetary sinners

One would think that with state budgeted revenue estimates down as much as $1.5 billion, Louisiana would be concentrating all its efforts to save a little money and redo the budget. Instead …

  • A massive reconstruction effort of the Superdome is going forward, to prevent defaulting on the state’s deal with the Saints. The team gets an escalating amount of subsidies every year they’re in town for the next five years, now at $15 million a year, but must pay an $81 million penalty if they leave early. Non-operability of the Superdome would waive the penalty, however. But these millions are being spent even as the whole future fate of the Superdome is up in the air. Why not let them go – a special tax is not raising even close to the present annual fee so more money would be saved by the state by their departure.
  • Even as outside experts had come in to run the Orleans Parish School District such was its state of misery, now there’s a rush on to open schools under the District’s control instead of a charter school arrangement advocated by the state and reform school board members. Why throw all these resources at a failed system instead of starting anew with a different one?
  • And the stupidity extends to higher education as well. In Louisiana, three pairs of universities, in each pair a historically black university, exist where the two schools are five miles or fewer apart. One, Southern University – New Orleans, was rendered largely unusable and unfixable by the Hurricane Katrina-induced flooding. Yet instead of scrapping the university entirely, there’s talk of rebuilding it costing in all likelihood tens of millions of dollars. Why not reassign the classified personnel to other nearby state government jobs, give the unclassified employees (the faculty and administrators) big termination settlements, and send the student to the University of New Orleans (two miles west) or Delgado Community College?
  • Finally, on capital projects the state continues to spend indiscriminately and Gov. Kathleen Blanco delays in including in a special session more than cursory measures to address the budget crisis. Why not look at every capital spending item in detail for the foreseeable future, and cut out discretionary items like the Rural and Urban Funds until a new budget can be put together, even if that means waiting until Blanco’s preferred January date?

    … we’re stuck on stupid.
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