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TOPS changes this session bring little benefit

Perhaps time constraints made it necessary, but legal changes being made to the Taylor Opportunity Program for Scholars provide next to no resolution to its neither fish-nor-fowl status that promotes inefficiency and waste that beg for follow-up.

As the Louisiana Legislature’s regular session wraps up, three bills have or look likely to become law altering the nature of TOPS, which pays for tuition at Louisiana institutions of higher education for at least below-average scorers on standardized tests with at least decent high school marks having taken a certain core of courses. Together, these changes will delink tuition rates with payouts beginning next year unless the Legislature specifically authorizes full tuition coverage in the future, create higher standards to receive the highest awards that pay a few hundred dollars above tuition, and when not fully appropriated to fund all awards to give out partial awards to all qualifiers.

The last does nothing positive for the program except curtail waste. As typically over 40 percent in a cohort before graduating end up losing their awards – recipients must take at least 12 hours a semester, maintain a grade point average not much above the requirement to stay a student in good standing, and have only eight regular semesters of funding – most of this failure occurs in the lowest achievement bracket. Although detailed records remain unpublicized, from the public reports required by law the average winner scored a 24 on the American College Test while the average score of those with cancelled awards was under 23. So, the fewer dollars going into a wasteful program, the fewer that get wasted.


LA Democrats fall short on constitutional knowledge

Ignorance about founding documents among the Louisiana House of Representatives’ Democrats extends beyond state Reps. Barbara Norton and Walt Leger into unhinged fear, as a recent debate on amending the Constitution shows.

Norton, and to a lesser extent Leger, in debate about a bill that would require elementary schoolchildren to have knowledge of the Declaration of Independence, showed they lacked a basic understanding of the parchment’s content and context as the foundation of the Constitution. But when debating the merits of SCR 52 by Republican state Sen. Dan Claitor, which would have the state authorize a constitutional convention to consider limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, imposing fiscal restraints upon its activities, and limiting the terms of office that may be served by its officials and by members of Congress, other Democrats also began skidding off the rails.

Democrat state Rep. Mike Danahay stayed more on the tracks than others with a proposed amendment to disallow the convention from considering changes to the Bill of Rights, or the first ten amendments (practically speaking, the first eight). But as floor manager Republican state Rep. Ray Garofalo pointed out, to amend the version Claitor presented would make it incongruent with calls from several other states, and for states to initiate a convention on the three items alone the resolution from each needed essentially identical wordings. Thus, Danahay’s amendment, even as on the surface it appeared to help the cause, actually served as a poison pill and the body rightly rejected it.


Declaration knowledge lacking by LA lawmaker

It’s a good thing requirements to take office as a Louisiana legislator do not include even a cursory knowledge of America’s founding as a sovereign state, for state Rep. Barbara Norton surely would have failed any such exam.

Just when you thought Norton had reached a new low in discharging the duties of her position – when she said fellow legislators who opposed her bill to force theaters to use metal detectors on patrons would aid and abet in the killing of children – she suggested that not only children should not consider learning the Declaration of Independence useful but that the document deserved repudiation. HB 1035 by state Rep. Valarie Hodges mandated the teaching of the document in schools.

In her typical inarticulate way, Norton appears to have indicated that because at the signing of the Declaration slavery existed, the bill made an “unfair” request of schoolchildren. Further, she called the Declaration a fraud, prompting Hodges to ask whether Norton believed, using the Declaration’s phrasing, that all men were created equal. She bizarrely mentioned that Dr. Martin Luther King had yet to be born in 1776, and that because many blacks did not get treated equally then, they could not be created equally, seeming to say in order for establishment of equal rights King needed to show up. Thus, the Declaration was a lie unworthy of study.


Memorial Day, 2016

This column publishes every Sunday through Thursday around noon U.S. Central Time (maybe even after sundown on busy days, or maybe before noon if things work out, or even sometimes on the weekend if there's big news) except whenever a significant national holiday falls on the Monday through Friday associated with the otherwise-usual publication on the previous day (unless it is Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, Christmas, or New Year's Day when it is the day on which the holiday is observed by the U.S. government). In my opinion, in addition to these are also Easter Sunday, Memorial Day and Veterans' Day.

With Monday, May 25 being Memorial Day, I invite you to explore this link.