Gov. John Bel Edwards joined Louisiana higher education leaders at LSU on Wednesday to discuss the state’s goal of having 60 percent of adults obtain a postsecondary credential by the end of the decade.  Reaching the goal means more than doubling the number of Louisianans getting postsecondary degrees or credentials each year – from 40,000 to 85,000 – by 2030. As The Advocate’s James Wilkins explains, a more educated and skilled workforce would benefit the whole economy. 

According to data from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Louisiana achieving its higher education credential goals by 2030 would lead to an extra $5,414 in cumulative personal income per capita and yield an estimated $3.4 billion in state revenues. NCHEMS also projected savings of $1.26 billion in Medicaid costs and $206 million in corrections costs. “The biggest part of that is getting 60 percent of our adults to have some secondary degree or credential that is of value to them and that is of value to us,” (Gov. John Bel) Edwards said. “It’s going to give them an opportunity to have a job, but better than a job, a career in a field that is going to pay a wage that can support them and their families and that can lift communities.”

The Washington Post’s Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports that college enrollment has stabilized after years of declines, but is still below pre-pandemic levels. 

Declines in undergraduate enrollment began to stabilize last fall, contracting by just 0.6 percent compared to the same period in 2021. With more than 3,600 institutions captured in the data, the new numbers are an improvement from earlier estimates that relied on fewer schools. First-year undergraduate enrollment was a bright spot, as schools nationwide gained 97,000 freshmen, an increase of 4.3 percent over the prior year. Still, freshman enrollment is down by 150,000 students compared to 2019.

The manufactured controversy of teaching Black history
The curriculum has been released for a new nationwide advanced African American studies class, which has been thrust into the national political debate after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis moved to ban it and other race-related education materials. The Associated Press’ Cheyanne Mumphrey and Sharon Lurye spoke with teachers and students at Baton Rouge Magnet High School – one of 60 schools nationwide testing the new course – about the benefits of learning about the important history of Black people in America, which often goes unmentioned in other history classes. 

The course has been popular among students in schools where it has been introduced. In Baton Rouge, so many students were interested that Emmitt Glynn is teaching it to two classes, instead of just the one he was originally planning. … For Malina Ouyang, 17, taking the class helped fill gaps in what she has been taught. “Taking this class,” she said, “I realized how much is not said in other classes.” Matthew Evans, 16, said the class has educated him on a multitude of perspectives on Black history. He said the political controversy is just “a distraction.” “Any time you want to try to silence something, you will only make someone want to learn about it even more,” he said.

States under scrutiny for Covid spending
States are coming under bipartisan scrutiny for how they spent federal Covid-19 relief dollars. While the money was meant to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and the people most affected by it, some states, including Louisiana, have steered it to transportation projects, replenishing trust funds and other initiatives not related to public health. States Newsroom’s Casey Quinlan reports. 

Colorado, Louisiana and North Dakota also spent a large proportion of their funds on transportation construction. … States allocated $23 billion to unemployment insurance trust funds, but only a small portion of that, $929 million, went toward upgrading unemployment insurance and improving access through IT changes and other advancements. The rest went toward rebuilding those trust funds after jobless claims increased due to the pandemic-related closures of businesses. 

While Louisiana lawmakers resisted the urge during last year’s legislative session to use the one-time windfall to make permanent tax cuts, they will be tempted to consider the short-sighted idea again. Quinlan explains how cutting taxes now will hurt states in the very near future. 

“It’s during good times in the economy when states are flush with cash that they feel that they are most able to justify and to push for deep tax cuts,” Davis said. “I do think that they feel that they’ve been able to use that almost as a cover for something that they wanted to do year after year and they continue to push for year after year, but (they’re) not talking about what the long-term implications are, because you’re looking at a one time surplus.”

States would benefit from paid leave policies
Sunday marks the 30th anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which has been used more than 460 million times by working people to take unpaid leave from work to care for themselves or a loved one. While the FMLA has helped millions of people, the lack of national paid family and medical leave continues to cause severe financial hardship and undermine the health and well-being of workers and their families. The National Partnership for Women and Families has released state-level fact sheets to show the benefits of these vital programs.  

Most working people in the United States – 75 percent, or 105 million people nationwide – do not have paid family leave through their jobs. Just 12 states have their own paid family and medical leave programs. Everywhere else, the lack of paid leave exacerbates other economic and care challenges – from the rising cost of living, to a scarcity of reproductive and maternal health care, to an aging population, with devastating costs for workers and their families, public health and our economy. … The United States’ paid leave crisis is especially acute in light of the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year. 

Number of the Day
95,000 – Estimated number of additional female workers in Louisiana if state leaders invested in paid leave and other caregiving policies. These policies would generate an additional $2.6 billion more in wages earned statewide. (Source: National Partnership for Women and Families)