Public school leaders are sounding alarm bells on the significant threat that so-called education savings accounts pose to their systems. Two bills (House Bill 745 and Senate Bill 313) making their way through the Louisiana Legislature would replace the state’s current voucher system, which is only eligible to low-income families, with universal stipends available to all families, regardless of income. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Patrick Wall reports on the concerns from superintendents and school board members over how an expensive private school entitlement program would affect their public schools. 

One [Livingston Parish school] board member warned that a reduction in state funding could force the district to close schools and lay off teachers. Superintendent Joe Murphy said that an ESA program open to all families could guzzle up tax dollars, leaving less money for the “minimum foundation program,” or MFP, the state’s public school funding formula. “I think this absolutely has the potential to devastate our schools from an MFP standpoint,” Murphy told the board. After all, money for the ESA program “has got to come from somewhere.”

Others are concerned that private schools would be given public money, but wouldn’t have to accept all eligible students. 

[Ouachita Parish] Board Member Mike Batey also recorded his own video criticizing the legislation. Because the ESA bills would allow private schools to set their own admissions policies, a school receiving tax dollars could turn away a student with low scores or behavior problems, he said. “This private school is taking public money but doesn’t have to take this young man,” Batey said in the video. “How is that school choice?”

The Louisiana House advanced a proposal on Monday to phase out the state’s severance tax for oil production. Rep. Beau Beaullieu’s House Bill 418 would gradually reduce the tax – by half a percentage point each year starting in 2025 – from 12.5% to 8.5%. The Times-Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Meghan Friedmann reports on the full cost of the proposal and explains how it couldn’t come at a worse time for the state’s finances: 

Invest in Louisiana, formerly known as the Louisiana Budget Project, estimates it will put the state short about $80 million in annual revenue once the rate reaches 8.5%. Jan Moller, who heads that organization, has warned against moving forward with the tax cut, especially as the state faces an anticipated half-billion-dollar budget shortfall after the 0.45-cent temporary sales tax rolls off next year. … The budgetary challenge also comes as the state is expected to face rising costs related to the slew of tough-on-crime measures lawmakers passed during the recent special session. 

Americans are in the heart of tax season, a time where families must navigate through complex forms and rules to complete their filings. But a new report from Brookings’ William G. Gale examines revenue-neutral reforms that could simplify the federal income tax. 

Tax simplification is a long-standing issue that garners widespread support, at least in principle. And it’s technically feasible. But most existing taxes—and their reasons for inclusion in the tax code—are often far more complex than it seems on the surface. A concerted effort to simplify taxes will face an uphill battle. But simplification would make a lot of people a lot happier and is a credible way for policy makers to tangibly influence the lives of their constituents.

Multiple Louisiana Native American tribes have faced roadblocks in their attempts to gain federal recognition. Recognition from the United States government comes with many benefits, including access to federal funding and health care and education services. Verite News’ Brandi Liberty explains the struggles of some of these tribes:

The United Houma Nation, with a membership exceeding 17,000 people, has been seeking federal recognition since 1979, making it one of the longest unresolved cases. Despite clear evidence of a continuous tribal community and culture, the process has been stalled by bureaucratic delays and documentation demands. The tribe’s history, marked by European contact in the 1600s and a long-standing presence in southern Louisiana, has been well-documented, yet the federal government seeks  more precise documentation of political authority and governance through history. The process is also hindered by the oil and gas sector, which influences land and resource rights.

Louisiana tribes have also struggled to gain state recognition. Recognition from Louisiana comes with many benefits, including scholarships, health care assistance and lines of communications with local and state governments. 

$1.3 billion – Amount of federal dollars that Louisiana will receive from two recently passed Congressional spending bills. (Source: Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate)