The Senate Education Committee advanced legislation on Wednesday that would provide six weeks of fully paid parental leave for K-12 public school teachers and support staff. Senate Bill 426 by Sen. Sam Jenkins and Rep. Aimee Freeman promotes economic security, improves maternal and child health and keeps people attached to the workforce. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Allison Allsop reports on the bill, including existing benefits for state employees: 

Under Jenkins’ legislation, teachers and support staff will be eligible for paid parental leave, in addition to any sick leave or paid time off they have accrued, as long as they have worked for a public school system for at least 12 months. (…) In 2023, then-Gov. John Bel Edwards established six weeks paid parental leave for most unclassified state workers. Three of the four state’s higher education systems have since adopted the same for their employees. 

A new issue brief from Invest in Louisiana’s Stacey Roussel explains how SB 426 is a simple way to support educators and helps ensure that Louisiana schools remain competitive and retain qualified teachers and support staff with benefits for everyone.

Teachers with more years of experience tend to be more effective, with 43% of teachers in their first or second year of teaching being rated as effective-proficient or highly effective compared to 53% of teachers being rated this high after four to five years. The most recent federal data shows that 24% of teachers who recently left teaching reported “personal life reasons (e.g., health, pregnancy/childcare, caring for family)” as the most important reason that factored into their decision to quit.

A proposal to create a private school entitlement program was pulled before it could receive a vote and after lawmakers tacked on an amendment aimed at accountability. Senate Bill 313 would eventually provide all families, regardless of income, with taxpayer-financed savings accounts that could be used to pay for private, online or home school. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Greg LaRose breaks down lawmakers’ concerns over so-called Education Savings Accounts, including the huge price tag: 

An independent estimate has placed the cost of the education savings account measure, called the Louisiana Giving All The Opportunity to Rise (LA GATOR) Scholarship Program, at $520 million once open to all families. Some lawmakers had begun to publicly fret its huge impact on the state budget ahead of a substantial projected revenue drop. Starting June 30, 2025, the expiration of a 0.45% portion of the state sales tax will create a nearly $560 million dip in revenues. …“Putting our toe in the door with this, it’s going to be back with more and more demands for revenue that, everyone agrees, is not going to be what it has the last couple of years,” Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, said. 

The legislation could still come up for debate, and is on the Senate floor schedule for Monday.

Louisiana would be barred from seeking or accepting waivers from federal work requirement rules under legislation that cleared the House Committee on Health and Welfare on Wednesday. Senate Bill 195 by Sen. Blake Miguez applies to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and would take away flexibility the state currently has to respond to changing economic conditions. The bill requires SNAP participants who are deemed “able-bodied adults without dependents” to comply with work reporting requirements and prevents the state from waiving those rules in times of economic downturn or other hardship. BRProud’s Shannon Heckt reports on concerns from some lawmakers and food security advocates: 

Some lawmakers still fear it will create a hardship for certain people who will lose out on the $200 a month for food. They said that convicted felons, people living in rural areas and other life events can hold people back from seeking work. “We’re talking about folks that’s convicted felons, with criminal backgrounds. We can’t assume that somebody is going to hire them. And we’re talking about taking food, literally taking food out of people’s mouths,” said state Rep. Larry Selders, D-Baton Rouge. Some advocates also said studies show that work requirements don’t really increase employment rates. The bill was voted along party lines.

A new issue brief from Invest in Louisiana’s Sissy Phleger explains why SB 195 would drive up hunger in Louisiana, which is already one of the most food-insecure states in the country.

Louisiana was ranked as the worst state in the nation in a new U.S. News and World Report “best states” report. Many of the factors that led to the Pelican State’s dismal ranking – high rates of violent crime, poor health outcomes and a lack of economic opportunity – stem from poverty. It’s not surprising that 1 in 5 Louisianans currently live in poverty and the state routinely ranks last or near last on this measure. The Shreveport Times’ Greg Hilburn explains how this embarrassing report is just the latest for the state: 

The WalletHub study ranked Louisiana 50th among states and the District of Columbia as best places for women, ahead of only Oklahoma. Last spring a WalletHub study ranked Louisiana as the worst state in America for working mothers, with data showing moms here are shortchanged on everything from pay to childcare. And last year’s Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Louisiana 49th for child well-being.

Reality check: Louisiana’s ranking follows decades of policies designed to lure business investment by showering corporations with generous tax breaks. In the 2022-23 fiscal year, Louisiana gave away approximately $1.8 billion in corporate income tax breaks, while only collecting a little more than $1.2 billion. 

Invest in Louisiana has created fact sheets for all 64 parishes and the 144 districts that make up the state House and Senate. The sheets include demographic and economic information, as well as details on safety-net programs like Medicaid and tax credits that help low-income workers.

41 – Louisiana’s national rank for fiscal stability. Louisiana is facing looming budget shortfalls in the years ahead, mostly due to the expiration of a .45-cent temporary sales tax. (Source: U.S. News and World Report)