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No reason not to raise tuition to salvage LA budget

As policy-makers cast about for ideas to stave off cuts into the hundreds of millions of dollars to Louisiana’s higher education system, leaders in that sector are coalescing around the entire sensible option of allowing schools to raise tuition beyond the 10 percent allowable increase for this upcoming fiscal year. That option needs to be taken.

Yes, with the state ranked 18th among all states and the District of Columbia in per capita spending it’s clear that higher education spends money inefficiently, primarily because of its overbuilt nature. And it’s not like spending generally has not been increasing for higher education in Louisiana: going back to former Gov. Mike Foster's first year, total spending on higher education to this past year has increased 95 percent. During this same period, the inflation rate increased only 51 percent. Adjusted for student credit hours delivered, which gives an indication of output, the increase still is 63 percent. In other words, in the past 18 years, changes in spending on higher education outpaced inflation.

Yet as previously noted, any plan to rectify revenue shortfalls cannot be done hastily in the breech, as this year’s budgeting task would dictate, so offered as a solution was the temporary suspension of unproductive tax exceptions. However, the tuition-raising option also makes sense. Under current law, because the Legislature oddly has a veto power over tuition hikes, that was modified to allow up to 10 percent increase unilaterally by institutions if they met certain performance benchmarks. So, the Legislature could amend it to allow for something like a one-time hike beyond 10 percent to help bail out higher education this year.


Venture capital woes further endanger Caddo politicians

With more disappointing news coming from their venture capitalist endeavor in addition to other questionable actions, members of the Caddo Parish Commission may find themselves having to pay the fiddler in reelection attempts this fall.

Last month, in a public meeting scheduled to explain why a target hiring date of employees of the beginning of 2014 by Elio Motors, and production beginning first in the middle of that year and then at the beginning of this year, have all been deadlines that have been missed, the company announced it was pushing back the production start date again until early 2016. In 2013, through a complicated arrangement, essentially an arm of the parish bought discarded General Motors infrastructure as a site for the firm to produce a mass-produced concept vehicle that has been described as anything from futuristic to a scam.

This could not come at a good time for about all of the commissioners, most of whom who voted to put taxpayer money on the line with the assumption the Elio arrangement would pay off in terms of jobs and tax revenue, instead of being left holding the bag, because of this upcoming election year. Worse, most also have been complicit in a number of other decisions that were not in the taxpayers’ best interests.


Pulling children from test taking only hurts them

This is starting to get ridiculous. So is preventing your children from being tested over material learned during the school year because the exam is structured around the Common Core Standards Initiative really striking a blow against an intrusive federal government, corporate greed, lower standards, or whatever bogeyman the standards are believed to be?

Yes, a very small number of families have divulged intentions not to let their children take these exams at the end of winter, including some in Ouachita Parish. Results from these are used to evaluate a significant number of teachers and all public schools; in fact, absences lower these scores. They also provide a marker for student progress.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, who was for CCSI before he was against it, called upon the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to provide alternate tests. But that would be wasteful and meaningless, because such tests, even if formulated in record time that could replicate the goals of instruction already performed, would not be comparable to those that came before and will come in the future, and BESE rightly disregarded the plea (which needlessly took the form of a useless executive order).


Waivers for IN still produce bad expansion deal for LA

Now that Indiana has made some accommodation to Medicaid expansion partly on its own terms, the question becomes whether this represents a sensible model for Louisiana to embark upon its own version.

As originally formulated, refusing to expand Medicaid through the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare’) was a no-brainer. Even under the most optimistic projections, when the federal government went from the 100 to 90 percent reimbursement rate by 2020, after that it would cost the state more money than without expansion and its continuing to rely upon provision of uncompensated care for those without insurance and ability to pay. By 2023 the cost to Louisiana would be $68 million annually, growing at a rate of almost 15 percent a year. This means in the decade of 2020-29 the state would pay an extra $858 million above and beyond what it could. (And you don’t even want to consider the most pessimistic projection, which puts additional decade costs around $4 billion.)

And, as it turns out, for care no better than that consumed or not by the uninsured. As the study known as the “Oregon health insurance experiment” demonstrated, Medicaid users in the aggregate on outcomes did no better than the same uninsured patient population. This points to the necessity of reforming the fee-for-service rationale behind Medicaid and the patient consumption behaviors that it causes.


Manufactured controversy dies by interesting source

Former presidential candidate, U.S. Senate candidate, U.S. House candidate, gubernatorial candidate, Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, state Senate candidate, and former state Rep. David Duke has a unique quality of becoming of sillier and sillier as time passes. Despite that, Republican Rep. Steve Scalise must be thankful Duke opened his trap about recent controversy manufactured around Scalise involving the gadfly.

Keeping Duke away from publicity is like trying to separate the cast of Keeping up the with Kardashians from the gaze of a television camera, and so when Baton Rouge local radio host Jim Engster invited onto the air last week the guy who makes a living from other people’s donations, he presented himself present and correct almost as fast as Pres. Barack Obama walks back promises about red lines, closing detention centers, keeping doctors you like, etc.

Duke was miffed at Scalise when the latter had the audacity last month to offer a preemptive apology in case he might have spoken to members of a group Duke fronted that evinced white supremacist overtones. Given that the group essentially was unknown to many Louisiana politicians, that it never publicized in advance his appearance, that the talk had to do with tax issues, that the organizer of it said the invitation came from a neighborhood association of his creation (dueling for attention with a rival organization from which it had broken) and any group members there had wandered in early, that any organization related to Duke who by this time any connection to whom was toxic to any politician that would make any of them keep as far away from this as possible, and Scalise’s own history of personal comportment and principled politics, it’s certain that anything Scalise had to do with the group was incidental and accidental.