An analysis of Louisiana schools has reinforced findings from previous research showing that poverty has a negative impact on student performance. That’s bad news for the Pelican State, where 71% of public school students are economically disadvantaged. It’s especially concerning for Black students, who are more likely to hail from low-income families and are more than five times as likely to attend a failing school than their white counterparts. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller breaks down the latest report linking poverty to poor results at state schools. 

“The biggest indicator of a school’s performance is poverty, and we’ve known that,” Moller said. “Poverty and school performance are inextricably linked.” … The link between poverty and school performance is even more pronounced in statistics focused on students of color, illustrating the overlap between race and income in Louisiana. Black public school students on average attend schools that are 79.9% economically disadvantaged, compared with 61.5% for white public-school students, the report found. The report also pointed out that more diverse schools tend to perform better.

The audit showed that charter schools are not the solution to Louisiana’s battle between endemic poverty and student achievement. Nearly 62% of state charters were rated D or F, and many with high grades were falling short of a key requirement of serving low-income students. 

“I think what this report tells us is that charter schools haven’t been the panacea that their supporters suggest, and poverty is the strongest indicator of poor school performance,” Moller said. People want to think there’s some “magic” solution at schools with consistently high performance scores, Moller said. Factors such as the quality of teachers and classroom sizes can have an impact, he added, but the solution is often much more fundamental. “If you want to address educational outcomes and disparities, you address poverty,” Moller said.

Louisiana has eight of the worst water-polluting refineries
Eight Louisiana facilities are among the worst water-polluting refineries in the country, according to a new study from the Environmental Integrity Project. The authors examined 81 refineries nationwide and found that facilities in south Louisiana spew some of the highest levels of pollutants into state waterways. While the toxins can be harmful to animals and humans, there doesn’t appear to be any efforts from state or federal officials to stop the damage. The Advocate’s Tristan Baurick reports: 

The EIP study says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators are doing little to curb the half billion gallons of wastewater that pours from U.S. refineries each day. Federal standards enacted decades ago are rarely enforced and have failed to keep pace with advances in water treatment methods, the study said. “The EPA’s failure to act has exposed public waterways to a witches’ brew of refinery contaminants,” the study said.

A 2022 study from Tulane University showed that majority-Black communities in Louisiana are exposed to far greater amounts of harmful pollution than white communities in the state’s petrochemical corridor along the Mississippi River. But an open burn pit – and its possible renewal – in northern Grant Parish shows that environmental racism isn’t isolated to specific regions of the state. Frances Madeson, writing in the Louisiana Illuminator, reports:  

None of the staples of rural Louisiana living are safe, according to neighbors of Clean Harbors Colfax, a facility that disposes old munitions from Camp Minden and expired fireworks from Disney World. Thick pillars of black smoke from the open burn pit are visible from backyards in The Rock. … Residents of The Rock attribute their various ailments to the facility. A Rapides Parish pathologist has said the lungs of residents there are less healthy than in surrounding parishes.

Louisiana is a terrible place to be a woman
The tragedy surrounding the death and alleged rape of 19-year-old LSU student Madison Brooks is the latest example of how dangerous it is to be a woman in Louisiana. The state ranks second in the nation for women killed by men and is above the national average for rape cases. But other factors also contribute to how vulnerable the state makes its female residents to cases of violence and abuse. Louisiana has the highest gender pay gap and some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. The Advocate’s Emily Woodruff explains how all of these factors make Louisiana a dangerous plan to be a woman.

“Louisiana is the worst place to be a woman,” said Michelle Jeanis, a criminal justice professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “It’s health care, politics, the income gap, access to education and the violence rates against women.” Being paid less or having high rates of death related to childbirth might not seem like it’s related to sexual violence on its face. But those factors make women more vulnerable to sexual perpetrators. “A lot of the underlying factors that influence sexual violence are high in Louisiana,” said Jessie Nieblas, the director of education and prevention at Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault.

Covid health emergency to end in May
President Joe Biden announced on Monday that his administration will end the national emergencies to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic on May 11. The announcement came as House Republicans, led by Louisiana’s Steve Scalise, called for an immediate end to the emergencies and flexibilities states received to administer health care during the pandemic. The Washington Post’s Rachel Roubein reports: 

The administration announced its decision as it denounced House Republican efforts to vote on bills this week to end the emergency declarations immediately. The White House argued that doing so would “create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty” throughout the health-care system and disrupt the orderly wind-down the administration had envisioned. Since Biden entered office, his administration has pledged to give governors 60 days’ notice before terminating the public health emergency, as health groups fretted about an abrupt termination. 

As part of the end of the emergencies, states, including Louisiana, will start reviewing eligibility for Medicaid recipients in April. WAFB’s Alece Courville spoke with LBP executive director Jan Moller about how returning to pre-pandemic rules will affect Medicaid in the state. 

Number of the Day
62% –
Percentage of state charter schools that are rated D or F. Many of the high-performing charter schools are falling short of a key requirement of serving low-income students. (Source: Louisiana Legislative Auditor)