Every Louisiana child deserves access to an education in a great school staffed by highly qualified teachers. A good education is the foundation of a successful future and the key to improving Louisiana’s long-term economic fortunes. For the vast majority of Louisiana families, that education happens in public schools, which, sadly, often struggle for resources they need to do their jobs. But instead of working to improve our public schools, Gov. Jeff Landry and his legislative allies have fallen for the latest right-wing policy fad: education savings accounts, which would drain money from public schools while subsidizing wealthy families that already pay for private school. Invest in Louisiana Executive Director Jan Moller has more in a guest column for The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate: 

By making vouchers available to all families paying for private school, the Legislature would be creating an entirely new cost for the state. While legislative analysts haven’t provided a cost estimate for the bill, the track record in other states suggests Louisiana is in for a sticker shock. In Arizona, these savings accounts are on track to cost the state more than $900 million this year — 1,400% more than originally forecast. A good chunk of that money is likely to be misspent. Arizona auditors found that more than $700,000 in public funds that parents were supposed to spend on their kids’ education instead went to clothing and beauty supplies.

Pouring money into private schools will leave fewer dollars for public schools, which are currently protected from cuts by the state constitution. But as The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports, that could be undone if legislators follow through on their threats to rewrite the state constitution: 

Here’s another key question: Will lawmakers remove from the constitution the Minimum Foundation Program, which sets how much the state spends on K-12 schools each year? Taking the MFP out of the constitution would make it easier to cut public education spending– which could be attractive to Republican lawmakers to help pay for potentially expensive Education Savings Accounts. 

State fiscal analysts project that Louisiana will see a growing gap between the demand for public services and the tax revenue available to pay for them. Those budget shortfalls – already projected at $559 million next year – could grow considerably as the state turns back the clock on criminal justice reforms and starts (potentially) underwriting private school tuition for middle- and upper-income families. Gov. Jeff Landry has used the looming fiscal cliff to justify standstill or reduced spending for key state priorities. But as The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Stephanie Grace explains, the belt-tightening doesn’t apply to him and his allies: 

And add to all this the cost of the new administration’s other ideological adventures, from sending the Louisiana National Guard to the Texas/Mexico border to pursuing federal litigation on issues far afield from state government. Conservatism? Sure. Fiscal conservatism? Hardly, not when big government spending finances some social priority. Which is not to say the new leaders won’t still trot out small government rhetoric on issues that don’t fit their ideological agenda. Generous funding of what were once known as school vouchers aren’t likely to signal support for safety net spending, or recurring raises for badly underpaid public school teachers.

LSU announced on Friday that it is offering six weeks of fully paid parental leave to all its employees. Last November, LSU announced a program that mirrored efforts to provide the benefit to all state employees: A new state Civil Service rule that covered rank-and-file classified employees, and an executive order issued by former Gov. John Bel Edwards that covered unclassified employees and appointees. But LSU President William Tate didn’t sign off on the new policy and the university was only providing paid parental leave to classified employees. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Piper Hutchinson reports:

“I believe this will be an important recruitment and retention tool for staff, as well as a welcome relief for parents-to-be at LSU,” Staff Senate President Josh Duplechain said in a statement to the Illuminator. … Despite the promised Jan. 1, 2024 start date, the policy languished in the President’s Leadership Council. The group of administrators needed to weigh the proposal and offer comment before university President William Tate could sign off on it, Vice President for Human Resource Management Niki Norton said in a statement to the Illuminator in February. 

President Joe Biden has called for higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations to pay for a wide array of new social programs and to shrink the federal budget deficit. But a new analysis from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center shows the changes Biden has made to the tax code will result in a net cut of about $600 billion over four years and slightly more over 10 years. The New York Times’ Jim Tankersley reports

“It’s reasonable to conclude from those numbers that the Biden tax policy hasn’t been some kind of radical tax-raising program,” said Benjamin R. Page, a senior fellow at the center and author of the analysis. … It is clear by that measure that his record has not matched his own ambitions for taxing the rich and big companies — or Republicans’ attempts to caricature him as a tax-and-spend liberal. That’s largely because Mr. Biden has struggled to pass his most ambitious tax-raising plans.

12.9 – Average air quality for Shreveport in 2023 (measured by the concentration of fine particulate pollution (PM2.5) in micrograms per cubic meter). The World Health Organization recommends particle pollution levels not exceed 5.0. (Source: IQAir)