The number of students in unapproved private schools in Louisiana has nearly doubled since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. But it’s hard to determine what kind of education the approximately 21,000 students are receiving – or if they’ve learned anything at all. Springfield Preparatory School, for example, will issue a high school diploma for $465. The AP’s Sharon Lurye (with an assist from The Advocate’s Charles Lussier) reports on the unregulated business of homeschooling. 

[Principal] Sibley Morrison says she is not selling diplomas, but rather lifetime services for homeschooling families. “We’re not here to make money,” she said. Yet a list of prices is taped to the front window of the school building: $250 for diploma services, a $50 application fee, $35 for a diploma cover and $130 to walk in a cap and gown at a ceremony. … Signs at the school advertise “state-approved” diplomas, even though the state has not approved anything about the school. Sibley Morrison says she can use those words because she encourages each family in her program to simultaneously sign up for the state-approved home study program.

Overhaul jail regulations to better protect inmates
Louisiana needs to create standard policies for its jails and revamp the department responsible for enforcing them, according to a new state-commissioned report. The findings from the University of Texas show the lack of uniformity threatens the health and well-being of inmates and shields jail employees from discipline for abuse. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Meghan Friedmann reports on benefits of acting on the recommendations and luke-warm reception they’ve received from law enforcement officials. 

If the state, which has the highest incarceration rate in the country, acts on the report, it could drastically improve thousands of inmates’ quality of life, advocates say. It could also help those inmates’ family members more adequately manage their mental health care and visit them in person. While it’s unclear if that will happen, the sheriffs’ association and corrections department appear to be reevaluating existing guidelines. In a Nov. 15 letter to the state House clerk, agency representatives expressed skepticism over some of the proposed policies but said they would take them into account. 

Will gains from she-covery last?
Prime-working-age women – those between the ages of 25 and 54 – have contributed more than any other group to the rebound in overall labor force participation after the Covid-19 pandemic. The share of women who have jobs – 75.3% – is at an all-time high. The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell examines the economic gains from the ‘she-covery’ and whether they will last. 

A lot of factors needed to align perfectly for this to happen. Women had to invest in the right skills and credentials to get into just the right occupations. They also required more supportive partners and co-parents, plus available child care and maybe backup child-care arrangements, too. And they needed more accommodating employers — or at least economic conditions that forced employers to become more accommodating, because companies short on staff need to keep their workers happy. Which underscores the question of whether such strong growth in women’s employment is itself sustainable, absent a tight labor market or different policy choices.

Red state, blue city
Many states, including Louisiana, have preemption laws that prevent local authorities from passing their own legislation on key issues. While most of the attention around these laws have centered on minimum wage and worker rights, new efforts have focused on election administration and even water and rest breaks. The Washington Post’s Molly Hennessy-Fiske reports on the confounding dynamic of small-government conservatives imposing their will on progressive cities. 

More clashes are expected. Louisiana Gov.-elect Jeff Landry takes office in January and has promised to confront the state’s largest city, New Orleans. He already has created a committee led by a local GOP political donor and businessman to address public safety and other issues there. He has threatened to withhold state funding for the city’s water infrastructure until the DA agrees to prosecute women who violate the state’s abortion ban by seeking the procedure.

Number of the Day
75.3% – The share of prime-working-age women – those between the ages of 25 and 54 – who have jobs, which is an all-time high. (Source: Penn Wharton Budget Model via the Washington Post)