The House on Sunday gave final approval to a state spending plan that maintains current-year funding for public school teacher stipends but cuts state support for early care and education programs. The lower chamber’s concurrence was the final hurdle for the state budget after senators advanced their amended version of House Bill 1 on Friday. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Meghan Friedmann reports:

HB 1 includes $198 million for teacher stipends, part of a program that was started last year to give teachers $2,000 in extra pay. It is unclear whether the money will be split evenly next year, or if individual districts will decide how to divvy it up. The budget also cuts about $9 million from early childhood education programs. Advocates estimate about 800 infants and toddlers could lose daycare access due to that cut.

State lawmakers also agreed to tap into a state savings account to pay for one-time construction projects, including incurred costs from the state’s renewed effort on mass incarceration.

Of that money, $390 million will go into a fund for transportation improvements, $157.6 million will fund criminal justice needs after the Legislature and Gov. Jeff Landry approved tough-on-crime measures this February, $94.3 million will go toward college and university improvements and $75 million will go into a Water Sector Fund, according to state Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Winnfield, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

Monday marks the final day of the 2024 regular session, as lawmakers must adjourn no later than 6 p.m. 

Houses with fortified roofs are more likely to sustain hurricane-force winds, and have been hailed as a key part of the solution to Louisiana’s property insurance crisis. But many people who win a coveted spot in the state’s fortified roofing program end up dropping out. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Sam Karlin explains why so many homeowners are falling through the cracks: 

Nearly 1 in 4 of the lucky first batch of grantees – 643 in all – are no longer in the program, either because they didn’t qualify, dropped out or stopped participating, according to the Insurance Department. … “Most of them do not have the means to pay the out-of-pocket expenses,” [Department of Insurance’s Tom] Travis said. John Ford, a department spokesperson, said the agency may soon look to nonprofits to help fill in the gaps for people who can’t afford the costs. Next year, the agency will push to set up a permanent funding stream for the program by setting up a fee system for insurance companies.

There’s also no guarantee that a homeowner’s investment in a new roof will provide immediate savings on their insurance premiums:

Louisiana modeled its fortified roof program after Alabama’s, but unlike that state, the Republican-dominated Legislature here has refused to require insurers to offer a specific discount. That means many homeowners who have installed fortified roofs still aren’t getting significant relief. 

Gov. Jeff Landry’s controversial pick to lead Louisiana’s troubled juvenile justice system faces a potentially close vote on the Senate floor. Kenneth “Kenny” Loftin is the founder and longtime director of a youth detention center in Coushatta that was the subject of a scathing 2022 New York Times investigation that documented a horrific pattern of suicides, escapes and physical and sexual assaults against children. Loftin was not accused of abuse. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue reports:

Landry is putting pressure on senators to confirm Loftin. who has met one-on-one with some legislators in an effort to earn their favor. The governor’s office has also circulated a list of endorsements for Loftin, mostly from community leaders in north Louisiana. …  Landry also reached out to [Senate President Pro Tem Regina ] Barrow personally two weeks ago to advocate for Loftin, the senator said. Barrow still isn’t convinced Loftin is the right person for the job, given the allegations in The Times report. 

No place for ideological content in public schools 

Education Superintendent Cade Brumley announced last week that the state plans to partner with a right-wing producer of “edu-tainment” videos that public schools can use to teach social studies. The content from PragerU has been described as historically inaccurate by historians and right-wing propaganda by other critics. A Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate editorial explains why ideological content has no place in public schools. 

This all comes as the country is engaged in an immensely important debate over how to teach students the United States’ full history — including its many triumphs but also the times it has fallen short of its lofty ideals, learned from those experiences and set itself on a better course. We understand that these are nuanced topics to cover. That’s why we firmly believe they should be framed in our public schools by educators — not ideologues pushing their own agendas.

Number of the Day

17.6% – Percentage point decrease in applications for OB-GYN residencies in Louisiana in the 2023-2024 cycle. The number of applicants for reproductive health care in states with near-total abortion bans, including Louisiana, has decreased faster than states where abortion is legal. (Source: Association of American Medical Colleges)