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Statistics vindicate Jindal on rejecting federal funds

While many states flounder trying to deal with their latest funding crisis, by contrast Louisiana fares very well thanks in part to good decisions made by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

States have had to weather getting operating budgets in order, fending off a looming pension crisis, and now facing shortfalls in their unemployment insurance trust funds. States gather from employers a tax, based upon a myriad of factors with both a base federal component and additional state part, which goes into a fund from which the eligible unemployed may draw. The prolonged recession – ironically lengthened because the Pres. Barack Obama Administration with Congress’ compliance in the first half of his term slackened eligibility requirements – has created unemployment levels not seen in nearly 30 years, draining these funds in the states. This has caused many of them to do one or more of tighten eligibility requirements, reduce payments, increase taxes, or seek costly loans from the federal government.

But, while Louisiana has had to tackle budgets and pensions (in the case of the latter, half-heartedly), it has had no real worries with its unemployment trust fund.


Events unfolding to make Smith more vulnerable

It hasn’t been a good past few weeks for state Rep. Jane Smith, and it may get worse as far as her political future for someone in politics for almost half her adult life.

Smith, who has spent the last 17 years first as superintendant of the Bossier Parish School District and then representing House District 8, wishes to extend her political career by running for the Senate District 37 being vacated by state Sen. Buddy Shaw. The Republican faces term limitation after her 12 years.

Since Smith’s first election in 1999, when she was the only state representative candidate not running for reelection to win without opposition, among conservatives then enthusiastic for her slowly some disenchantment grew.


Replace tenure with area competency in LA schools

Perhaps momentum continues to build for a truly comprehensive restructuring of Louisiana elementary and secondary education, through the elimination of teacher tenure as this space long has recommended. Adding another element to the effort can help overcome resistance from defenders of the concept.

The latest statistics release shows a tenured teacher in Louisiana has a greater chance of dying during the school year than being dismissed for poor job performance. The trend continues where 98 percent or more each year continue to receive satisfactory evaluations, bringing into question the validity of the entire process. As with the state civil service that posts similar retention statistics, the only justification for this is that these government jobs recruit talented individuals far disproportionately to the private sector.

Dismal achievement statistics by Louisiana students should disabuse anybody considering that possibility, and tenure is held out as the reason allowing subpar teachers to continue on.


Politics further delay savings from plan reform

Continued confusion, in part due to politics surrounding the issue, lamentably has pushed back the proposed sale, in some fashion, of Louisiana’s state-run health care plan for its employees. It’s a loss to employees and retirees as well as taxpayers, for reasons still not entirely clear.

Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater announced that the timeline, originally to make any transfer occur at the beginning of the next plan year, starting Jan. 1, 2012, if it happens now would be for the 2013 plan year. (In fact, one reason why plan years were shifted on the calendar this year – until this past Jul. 1, they had run from Jul. 1-Jun. 30, necessitating a plan half-year for the last half of 2011 – was to accommodate this possibility.) No doubt the main reason dragging down the process, which would have to identify a feasible buyer acceptable to the state with time enough to take over operations, was the surprising resistance to the entire idea.

The facts are readily available about the issue, even as opponents continue to circulate claims of ignorance about them, or to avoid them entirely, or spreading misinformation about motives.


Celebrating felon's life shows LA reform incomplete

Yesterday’s fawning over Prisoner # 03128-095 serves as a useful reminder that work remains very incomplete in remaking Louisiana into a state where good policy and putting people before special interests go hand in hand.

Better known as former Gov. Edwin Edwards, the newly married ex-convict got a big bash thrown in honor of his 84th birthday (this week), which he once said he never thought he would live to see as a free man. Attendees had to pay for the honor (with some giving sheepish explanations as to why they did), and about 600 of them did at $250 a pop. (Where that money is going I haven’t been able to find out, but perhaps to help him pay off his share of the over $2.5 million he and his co-conspirators illegally gained has he was sentenced to do.)

Predictably, during it, in referring to his imprisonment Edwards took the same cowardly approach as did fellow attendee and publisher of his biography, Prisoner #03312-095, trying to maintain some kind of innocence.