New data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse survey shows that a large number of Americans are struggling as the cost of food and other necessities continues to rise. Experts warn that the struggles may become even worse as federal pandemic relief disappears. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains how state lawmakers can improve the economic security of millions of low- and moderate-income working families through new and enhanced Child Tax Credits (CTCs) and Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs). 

By reaching overlapping but different populations, each credit supports some families and individuals that the other doesn’t reach. State child tax credits are generally available to families with low or no earned income on their tax returns. These families may face high barriers to employment as well as high caregiving expenses, which the credits can help them meet. State EITCs are also available to families with children, but they also typically include people paid low wages without children in the home. Adults without children still face the same rising prices that make it hard to afford the basics; they may also be caretakers for people they cannot claim as a dependent on their tax return, such as non-custodial children. 

Louisiana’s EITC credit – the second-lowest in the nation – is 5% of the federal EITC, and more than 1 in 4 tax filers in our state claim the credit each year. The Pelican State does not have its own CTC, but a 2021 LBP report explains why it should offer one to its residents. 

Low community college graduation rates are misleading
Barely one-fourth of students who attend Louisiana’s community and technical colleges end up obtaining a degree. But state higher education officials say these concerning graduation rates are misleading because they don’t take into account nontraditional students who move on from the two-year institutions and obtain degrees elsewhere. The Advocate’s Will Sentell explains. 

State leaders say the rate is misleading, and leaves out thousands of nontraditional students who transfer to four-year schools, earn an industry-based certificate to get or enhance a job or who start and stop their college classes because of family obligations. Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, said the typical student at one of the state’s 12 community and technical colleges is a 27-year-old Black woman with children at home. “When you look the traditional measure you understand that it omits roughly 90% of our students,” Sullivan said.

EPA cracking down on pollution during startups and shutdowns
The Environmental Protection Agency says that Louisiana is in violation of federal law by allowing manufacturing companies to release toxic air pollutants in amounts greater than their permits allow during startups, shutdowns and malfunctions. During a 22-month span covering Jan. 1, 2021 through Oct. 18, 2022, the EPA found 205 instances where emissions were above permit limits. The Advocate’s Mark Schleifstein report: 

EPA contends that facility designs should already take into account the potential for reducing or eliminating emission increases during such periods, and their air permits already should reflect that potential. Additional emissions should be considered permit violations by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, it says. … EPA said the federal Clean Air Act doesn’t allow for exemptions from state-set emission limits. Louisiana’s rule could interfere with future EPA enforcement because the emissions were deemed allowable by the state’s variance, the EPA said in its filing. More importantly, the filing said, the state provision could be read as authorizing the state official to create an exemption from emission limits set by federal law.

‘Slavery is wrong” among things some teachers won’t teach anymore
The conservative backlash against teaching about America’s history of systemic racism has spawned at least 64 state laws that redefine what children in public school can learn and do. The laws, along with activist parents, have had a far-reaching effect. The Washington Post’s Hannah Natanson reports that fear of retribution from new state laws is causing some teachers to completely nix important topics in America’s past.

At the same time, an ascendant parents’ rights movement born of the pandemic is seeking — and winning — greater control over how schools select, evaluate and offer children access to both classroom lessons and library books. In response, teachers are changing how they teach. A study published by the Rand Corp. in January found that nearly one-quarter of a nationally representative sample of 8,000 English, math and science teachers reported revising their instructional materials to limit or eliminate discussions of race and gender. Educators most commonly blamed parents and families for the shift, according to the Rand study. 

Last week, U.S. House Republicans rallied around a bill by Louisiana Rep. Julia Letlow that would give parents more power to influence public school curriculum. 

Number of the Day
25% – Percentage increase in the number of “managers” in the labor force from 2010 to 2019. The overall number of workers only increased by half that percentage, in what many labor advocates say is an attempt by employers to mislabel employees in order to not have to pay them overtime. (Source: New York Times)