Every public college and university in the state, and four private institutions, were designated “hunger-free campuses” by the Louisiana Board of Regents on Wednesday. The state’s hunger-free campus program was created in 2022 from Rep. Barbara Freiburg’s Act 719, which the Louisiana Budget Project backed. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Piper Hutchinson reports on legislation designed to reduce food insecurity among college students: 

A 2020 study indicates that approximately 29% of students at four-year colleges and 38% at two-year schools in the U.S. experience food insecurity. The numbers are substantially higher for students of color. Research shows hungry students have lower GPAs and struggle more to earn their degree than students who know where their next meal is coming from. … “We are scratching the surface of what needs to be done for our students,” Freiberg told the board. “So this is just minimum requirements.” 

Property tax systems widen racial gap
Home equity makes up the largest share of most American families’ wealth. But generations of Black families have been denied access to homeownership: Nearly three-quarters of white Americans own homes, but less than half of their Black counterparts do. Even for the Black Americans that do own homes, the property tax assessments and valuations are often biased, and deprive them of wealth. New research from Brookings examines how America’s property tax system harms Black homeowners and widens the racial wealth gap: 

In the U.S., property taxes are supposed to be based on the value of the home; however, researchers at Indiana University concluded that nationwide, tax assessors often over-assess Black-owned homes relative to their market value. Consequently, the local property tax applied to the over-assessed value of Black-owned homes is 10% to 13% higher than for white-owned homes. Similarly, Brookings research has shown that real estate appraisers often undervalue Black-owned homes by 21% to 23%, which lowers the price a home is likely to be sold for. The over-assessment of Black-owned homes is the fault of tax assessors (81.3% of whom are white), whereas the undervaluation of Black-owned homes is the fault of licensed professional appraisers (99% of whom are white). 

Teacher shortages have gotten worse 
A new report published Wednesday shows that teacher shortages are getting worse in several states and underqualified people are filling classroom vacancies. Many states, including Louisiana, have lowered standards for entering the teaching profession, instead of paying educators better, as a way to fill classrooms. The Washington Post’s Moriah Balingit explains the pitfalls of this short-sighted solution. 

Those without teacher training often lack good classroom management skills, such as the ability to refocus a class after a disruption, [Principal Jackson] Green [of the Charles M. Sumner Educational Academy in Maine] said. Those skills are becoming even more important as he sees misbehavior in his school rising. And it can be a self-reinforcing problem. “When you have a shortage of certified teachers who have been trained combined with an increase in student misbehavior,” Green said, “that drives a lot of people away from the position.”

The shortage isn’t limited to teachers. As parents of children in Baton Rouge public schools can attest, districts are struggling to attract enough bus drivers and cafeteria workers to transport and feed children. 

Will minimum wage debate resurface when economy cools?
America’s red-hot labor market has led to massive pay increases for workers in retail, hospitality and other low-wage jobs. These raises have largely put on hold the debate surrounding the paltry federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, as most workers are making well above that amount. But what happens when the economy inevitably cools and employers regain the upper hand on wages? The New York Times’ Ben Casselman and Lydia DePillis report on the conflicting opinions surrounding how workers will be affected and why the current increases don’t necessarily equate to reduced financial hardship. 

Other economists have the opposite concern: that workers in states where the minimum wage remains $7.25 could see their recent gains evaporate when they no longer have the leverage to demand more. “It’s as tenuous as it gets,” said Kathryn Anne Edwards, a labor economist and policy consultant. “The labor market has gained ground, but policy has not cemented that territory.” Despite the strong labor market, many workers say they barely get by. … “A couple years ago, $12 an hour would’ve been killer money,” [KaSondra Wood] she said. But now, it isn’t enough to pay her bills. “I don’t ever get caught up,” she said. “I’m broke by the time I get paid.”

Number of the Day
407,000 – Number of Louisiana workers that have quit their jobs in the first half of this year. Louisiana set a record last year for the number of workers who left jobs (760,0000), but the state is on pace to surpass that mark in 2023. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via the Shreveport Times)