Louisiana was one of only nine states to improve ACT scores from last year, according to new national high school graduation data. While the Pelican State’s increase in average composite scores was modest – rising from 18.1 to 18.2 – it represented the first uptick in more than five years. The Lafayette Daily Advertiser’s William Taylor Potter reports

Louisiana’s students also showed improvement in three of the four subject areas of ACT, the data shows. The average English score rose from 17.6 to 17.8, while the reading score increased from 18.6 to 18.7. The science score rose from 18.3 to 18.5, while the math score remained at 17.4. The state also saw a larger share of students hit the benchmark in three of the four subjects. … The improvement stopped a seven-year streak of declining percentages.

Reality check: Louisiana’s average composite score was still the seventh-lowest in the nation and the state had some of the lowest rates of children meeting academic benchmarks.

Student loan payments could hurt state economies
The resumption of student loan payments this month could hurt state economies as borrowers have less money to spend and generate less tax revenue for state coffers. States that rely heavily on sales taxes, such as Louisiana, could be hardest hit because of changing spending patterns. Pew’s Page Forrest and Spencer Orenstein explain how examining outstanding student loans as a share of total state personal income could help leaders understand the budgetary impacts.

State personal income sums up all the money that residents receive from work, certain investments, income from owning a business and property, and benefits from employers or the government. (Total state personal income also includes government assistance, but those amounts were excluded.) When residents use some of this money for loan repayment instead of spending it on goods and services, those decisions will be reflected in tax collections and in the overall economy.

Note: Louisiana’s median outstanding federal student loan burden is tied for the fourth-highest in the nation at 11.9%. The national median is 8.5%.

Preemption laws on the rise
Many states, like Louisiana, have laws that preempt local authorities from passing their own laws on minimum wage or worker rights. But the use of these laws have increased over the last dozen years and have expanded into governments trying to block progress on entire issue areas, such as labor relations. Governing’s Alan Greenblatt explains the implications of the increase: 

This dynamic not only translates into conservatives blocking progressive policies, but has given corporations a powerful tool for eradicating local regulations they argue are unduly burdensome. Some say racial politics are involved, given the demographic differences between cities and outlying areas. “There is no question this has racial implications, taking power from Black and brown communities,” says Luis Figueroa, chief of legislative affairs for Every Texan, a progressive nonprofit group, referring to the state’s Death Star [preemption] bill.

Poverty increasing in suburbs
Nearly 1.5 million more people lived in poverty in 2022 than before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. More than 60% of the people who fell into poverty during that time live in the suburbs. Brookings’ Alan Berube and Elizabeth Kneebon, former nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, explain the rise in post-pandemic poverty in the nation’s suburbs:

Counties, cities, and towns of all sizes—including thousands in suburban America—received direct aid to help workers, households, and students whose lives the pandemic upended. While that aid was time-limited, it surely opened more suburban leaders’ eyes to the hardships many of their residents continue to face even after the emergency has subsided. Sustaining efforts to address economic hardship once pandemic-era federal funding runs dry will take creativity, collaboration, and commitment in the face of competing priorities. But as the latest data makes clear, American poverty remains a growing suburban challenge, and solutions to overcome it must take root there as well.

Number of the Day
18.2 – Louisiana’s ACT average composite score for 2023. Louisiana was one of only nine states to improve ACT scores from last year. (Source: ACT via Lafayette Daily Advertiser