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Legislative Roundup: Income tax reform advances; Supreme Court expansion fails; compromises on mandatory kindergarten, abortion reporting reached; and more
For the second time this week, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have expanded the Louisiana Supreme Court from seven to nine members fell short of the needed two-thirds majority.
With just 55 hours remaining before Thursday’s 6 p.m. deadline for this session, the Senate in short order Tuesday morning duly and unanimously rejected the House-amended versions of the sports betting and mandatory kindergarten bills at the request of their authors.
Mandatory kindergarten at age 5 and the perennial argument over whether Louisiana is getting its $180-million-a-year’s worth from movie business tax credits consumed over an hour of debate each.
Lafayette area reps are moving bills waiving taxes on re-opened orphaned wells and creating new reporting requirements for abortions.
Louisiana schools used federal coronavirus relief to buy up thousands of tablets for kids to use during the pandemic and beyond. Many school districts have more tablets than kids enrolled. Lafayette Parish, for instance, has 40,000 Chromebooks for its 31,000 students. Connectivity, however, remains a big problem. Not every family has home access to the internet. Mississippi used CARES Act allocation to address that problem directly and was pretty successful at it.
December’s coronavirus stimulus included $1 billion for schools in Louisiana. Districts across the state are working the windfall into their plans, with most using the money to address learning loss. Lafayette Parish schools will use its $37 million allocation for ” academic recovery, student services and personal protective equipment,” according to The Advocate.
Acadiana’s French immersion students are about to make a new animated friend. But he’s an old pal for many of their parents.
As local public schools navigate the pandemic in their quest to reopen, the longstanding challenges associated with the digital divide in Lafayette are making things a lot more complicated. It’s hard to do distance learning when thousands of students can’t access the Internet.
The gist: Jobs of the future require degrees or certifications, but Acadiana’s workforce isn’t educated enough, according to business leaders. At a summit last week, One Acadiana launched 55 by 25, a community-wide effort to boost the number of workers holding post-secondary certificates or diplomas to 55 percent of the population by 2025.
About 40 percent of the working age population in Acadiana has a degree or certificate. The region ranks fifth in the state. Louisiana ranks 48th in the nation. By 2025 regional attainment is projected to rise organically to 44 percent, meaning there’s an 11-point gap the initiative aims to close. That’s about 44,000 people to credential.
“We’re going to wage war on allowing our citizens to be uneducated,” says Dr. Natalie Harder, chancellor of South Louisiana Community College, a speaker at the summit.
It ends with diplomas but starts with childhood. The initiative aims to improve readiness for kindergarten. Louisiana lags in early childhood education, a key indicator of post-secondary success. Harder says there’s low-hanging fruit too: adults who have left college degrees incomplete but have enough credits to get an associate’s degree.
Lafayette’s already on track; it’s the rest of Acadiana that’s lagging. When you combine college degrees, associate’s degrees, and certifications, Lafayette Parish’s workforce is already at 52 percent. Given a projected organic increase of 5-6 percent across Acadiana, that means Lafayette’s on track already. But the rest of the parish is much further behind, bringing the region’s average down to only at about 40 percent. Lafayette still has a lot to gain, because when employers consider moving here, they look at the quality of the workforce across the region.
The state announced a goal of 60 percent by 2030. Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, commissioner of higher education for the Louisiana Board of Regents and the summit’s keynote speaker, announced that state goal in her remarks.
“Let’s all just agree that a smarter workforce is better,” says Jim Bourgeois, One Acadiana’s VP for economic development. Companies have increasingly emphasized workforce education in site selection, meaning as Acadiana fails to educate, it fails to compete for more jobs. Still, there’s a growing recognition that, site selectors be damned, education is intrinsically important, even when it’s not linked to employer recruitment.
Nearly 12 years after the Schools of Choice program helped LPSS escape federal scrutiny, the same program is at the center of a federal lawsuit alleging manipulation and exclusionary practices.
[UPDATE: Chris Williams has resigned. Read The Advertiser’s June 8 story here.] ▸ The gist: SMILE Community Action Agency remains in a state of utter chaos. With Williams at the helm, the agency last year lost $14 million in federal funding to operate Head Start and Early Head Start learning classes in Iberia, Lafayette and St. Martin parishes. A cloud of controversy […]