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Debates confirm governor's race revolves around Vitter

Whether he’s present at them, the Louisiana gubernatorial debates have been all about Sen. David Vitter and his campaign strategy, as witnessed in the two most recent this week.

For the first and last time presumably this election cycle, statewide televised forums occurred on consecutive days, the first with Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, and state Rep. John Bel Edwards, and the second including them and Vitter. The events’ tones differed as a result.

Two things distinguished the first: the bland, technocratic presentation that lacked almost any ideological referents and almost as much discussion and referents made about Vitter by the other three. Knowing nothing else about the candidates or contest, one might have thought the Republicans Angelle and Dardenne and Democrat Edwards all were moderates of the same party as they differed by small degrees in their issues preferences as expressed there and almost went out of their way to avoid drawing distinctions on their core beliefs.


CCSSI/PARCC critics unwisely try to shoot messenger

The predictable disappointing results from Louisiana’s first round of Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers testing has led to an equally forecastable palaver from critics of education reform in the state built upon killing the messenger rather than a desire to improve children’s educational attainment.

Superintendent John White released results using a scale he hoped that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education would ratify, presumably aligned with what the other ten states and District of Columbia that comprise PARCC will use, which it did. Louisiana is the first state to embark upon evaluating the results so it must anticipate here, and also when all others have done the same it is expected that Louisiana’s students in the grades 3-8 who took the tests in the aggregate will be among the lowest scorers; the state’s students usually perform near or at the bottom of state’s on scores of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the test given to samples of students in all states mandated by the federal government.

With White announcing that only 22 to 40 percent of students hit the benchmarks, this set off a chorus of carping from observers more generally against reform and those specifically critical of PARCC testing because of its connection to the Common Core States Standards Initiative. Perhaps most obsequiously attuned to criticism was state Rep. Brett Geymann, who declared on this basis that the whole of Common Core, introduced in full last year in Louisiana classrooms, had failed.


Edwards again fails religious freedom defense test

One can rest assured that those who run the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union remain on their medications if at least twice a year it launches into some manufactured outrage. They all seem well, courtesy of an ill-advised attempt to curb constitutional religious expression at Bossier Parish School District’s Airline High School that has broader implications in state politics.

The excitable lot in continuing its quest to promote a secularist religion last month fulminated over the penchant of AHS principle Jason Rowland to throw out references to God on his page attached to the school’s web site and that prayer boxes, marked with crosses, sprinkle the campus. It asked for the school to cease and desist in supporting this activity and requested reeducation sessions of school employees.

Perhaps the organization felt emboldened by its apparent success in browbeating Caddo Parish officials earlier this year when it scolded employees at Walnut Hills Elementary-Middle School for posted website material such as a newsletter to parents asking for prayer for exam-taking success and in its publicizing a student-run prayer group. While the community rallied on behalf of the school, the district said it would investigate and since then has mentioned nothing more publicly about the matter. Such references have disappeared from Walnut Hill’s communications.


Edwards expansion omission, lie speaks poorly of him

If by his reaction to partisan criticisms of his position to expand Medicaid gives voters an indication of gubernatorial candidate state Rep. John Bel Edwards’ command of facts and use of logic, then a vote for him backs someone who has neither ability.

The Democrat got upset when a Republican Governors Association ad pointed out he had sponsored this year a resolution to enact the Medicaid expansion portion of the misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That measure went nowhere, but the Legislature did pass a resolution allowing it and the governor to act in the first quarter of next year to assess a fee on many hospitals to pay for the state’s share of expansion, which then undoubtedly would be passed along to health insurance ratepayers and taxpayers.

Other major Republican gubernatorial candidates have expressed qualified desires to expand Medicaid. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle wants to pursue a hybrid public/private strategy as in Arkansas – apparently oblivious to the fact that this meant that state had to accept such restrictive rules that the cost overruns from these now has it trying to abandon the effort. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne seems to want to accept the arrangement as is except with a provision that the federal government not raise the proportion the states are to pay into it, known as “cost blending” – except that the fiscal evidence shows cost blending is approaching inevitability. Sen. David Vitter seems most dubious about expansion, averring that he would look at it as long as it undergoes programmatic changes that likely radically would overhaul Medicaid as a whole.