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Lower LA student debt levels means tuition underpriced

The fact that student loan debt might impose a greater burden than in the past on borrowers in Louisiana is a function of the choices made by them rather than in erroneous public policy.

Statistics show that nearly half of the class of 2012 in Louisiana graduated owing something. The average debt load was about $22,789. Further, an estimated one in 10 Louisiana graduates defaulted on federal student loan payments within two years of entering the repayment period.

But it’s illogical to assert that tuition rates at Louisiana colleges contributed much to this. After all, with the fourth lowest average tuition and fees rate in the country, in-state students here had a bargain compared to their peers in most states. Add to this that about a fifth of all college students in the state benefitted from a free ride on tuition, or more, from the Taylor Opportunity Program for Scholars that pays for tuition at state schools and in some cases even more, and it’s clear that taxpayers were putting up more than they should have to supplement a tertiary education to individuals who may not even stay in state once they graduated.


Mill bust exposes those responsible, wages of liberalism

The final tally from a recent notorious exercise of liberal populism has come in, and it took from every Louisianan almost $17 apiece for nothing.

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor looked at the pieces left from building a state-run sugar mill in Lacassine, the idiocy of which this space time and time again exposed. Now finally almost off the state’s ledger, in a report issued last week, the office determined it cost taxpayers a net $71 million (and this was described as the loss at a minimum). Its only revenues came from about a month’s operation, minimal lease payments, and scrap and salvage value.

That’s only the direct cost. Because the bond money for it was floated through the Louisiana Agricultural Finance Authority, it deprived the use of that money for its purpose originally intended, suppressing boll weevil activity. This forced the state some years ago to spend extra money it never should have had those funds not gone to the mill’s construction and instead could have been used to prevent flaring of weevil infestations. And since it used state workers in construction, most for tasks not even close to their job descriptions or competencies, an untold amount of productivity in pursuing state activities also was lost.


Jindal's white whale pursuit threatens to make him Ahab

The kabuki generated between Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education with its superintendent of education picked by it John White continues with a string of announcements and an actual meeting between Jindal and White, but the advantage in the conflict held by BESE remains the same to the detriment of Jindal’s political effectiveness.

Last week, BESE made another apparent concession, after having said previously it would use state-derived questions for testing purposes, to Jindal in that it would restart the test procurement process. Jindal has ordered heightened scrutiny over that process, almost the only conceivable way in which a governor can influence even the implementation of education policy in the state as that policy-making is vested in the hands of BESE, because he claims using a national test by definition imposes national content on the state, even if it is not content but common standards being adopted by Louisiana and most states that the test would evaluate the degree of their achievement.

But just as the previous request really meant nothing granted, in that only the subject areas not covered by national testing would use Louisiana questions and BESE indicated national tests still would be used in English and mathematics, so also did this latest offer also give nothing up to Jindal’s insistence that the national exam developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers not be used for this purpose. BESE officers and White proclaimed that they voluntarily would start over, if allowed to immediately and wrap it up in three months, the procurement process again – knowing that because PARCC had discussed giving the exam to the state for its first year for free that it could come in with a bid of zero and automatically win. Even if that didn’t happen, the officers – whose offer antagonized the only three apparent (of 11 total members) BESE opponents of the Common Core State Standards to which PARCC is tied – said the winning bid had to be for a test allowing for comparisons across states.


McAllister manages to top whiners' stupid remarks

Looks as if an idiot magnet popped up in Pineville, attracting a motley iron-headed bunch that wants to loot Louisiana taxpayers and to discourage improved health care delivery even as they have no hope of attaining their ultimate goal.

Last week, a gripe session over the closure of the state’s Huey P. Long Medical Center was sponsored by Pineville Concerned Citizens, which has a history not only of pushing leftist causes but also of flouting Internal Revenue Service regulations. Heartened by a state district court ruling that the closing violated open meetings law, even as the court allowed the closing to proceed at the end of June, many participants clamored for reopening the facility regardless of consequences to taxpayers and clients.

While it’s been only a couple of weeks since the hospitals functions have been farmed out to other local providers and with plans to have some medical care delivered by other providers on the site in a smaller footprint, the sane people involved discussed ways how to preserve the three-quarter-century-old facility and to find incentives to put it into use again. By contrast, the wackos present pledged in different ways to restore some semblance of income and power redistribution now made less possible by the state getting out of, except in one instance, the business of providing health care directly.


Shreveport plan to shore up pension fund deserves approval

While the relatively picayunish matter over the recoupment of $53,000 to the city opposed by Mayor Cedric Glover may grab headlines, a much more fundamental transformation of city finance goes on much more quietly and harmoniously even as it is much more desperately needed.

As noted previously in this space, Shreveport faces a ticking time bomb in its employee pension fund (which excludes public safety employees). Barely half funded, at least it’s in better shape than it was a few years ago, courtesy of investment earnings, and is mandated to be fully funded by 2039. But, problematically, under current rules that won’t matter; it’ll be drained completely by 2026.

Thus, the board that oversees the Employees’ Retirement System – City of Shreveport has brought up ideas for city government to consider in trying to erase the gap, which admirably place the emphasis on doing that where it needs to be. One prong is to change the multiplier that allows a city employee to draw full retirement pay (usually based on an average of the last two years’ salary) with as few as 30 years worked (meaning one could retire in their late 40s) to more like a little over 36 years (still meaning a full pension as early as one’s mid-50s), starting with hires for next year. The other increases by a percentage point a year from the current nine percent of salary to fund the pension up to 12 percent by 2017. As a majority on the board are the mayor or his appointees and a City Council member, what the board decides almost certainly will be approved by city government.


Hollis exit doesn't change Cassidy control of Senate race

It’s not surprising that Republican state Rep. Paul Hollis announced his exit from the U.S. Senate race this fall, because it never made much sense for him to enter it in the first place if he thought he could win.

That’s not because Hollis is not a conservative, with a three-year average score on the Louisiana Legislature Log voting index of just under 75 (well above the chamber and a bit above the GOP legislative averages, where 100 shows always voting for the conservative/reform preference). That’s not because Hollis has not demonstrated that he can win elections and has experience in a significant elective office, as he got himself elected to his position in 2011. It is that he got in the contest later than the two other Republican candidates who carved out space in both of these areas.

Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy has proven conservative credentials and almost six years’ experience in national government, including putting into law a significant item or two (for example, being one of the main forces behind getting markedly higher flood insurance rates for some homeowners delayed and lowered). But if somebody doesn’t like that Cassidy didn’t vote the conservative issue preference every single time and/or that he’s been in Congress all that time, then for you there’s absolutely politically inexperienced Republican Rob Maness who claims he can vote more conservatively than Cassidy.


Offer erodes political utility of Jindal's anti-PARCC stance

The conflict between the irresistible force and the unmovable object might be headed to a denouement sooner than realized, increasing the chances that Gov. Bobby Jindal turns out as the political loser.

This refers to the struggle between him and Superintendent of Education John White, Chairman of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Chas Roemer, and a majority on BESE, over giving standardized tests next year to Louisiana schoolchildren that align with the Common Core State Standards through the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Jindal, after some former low-key support of the exams for years, now has become a high-profile critic of them, saying they threaten to allow too much federal intervention into the state function of education.

Unable to stop test administration through political or administrative means, as neither BESE nor the state Legislature agree with him, Jindal has resorted to bureaucratic ploys via executive order such as layering contract review provisions onto getting the test paid and into classrooms next spring. The sheer obstinacy and disruptiveness of the machinations to halt dissemination when clear majorities in the appropriate policy-making organs of state government favor use of the PARCC tests makes it a high-risk strategy, where any inability to stop this makes Jindal look petty and unlike a statesman, but where success may give him an aura of ability to get the job done in preventing what some consider bad policy from getting inflicted on the people.


LASC ruling invites U.S. Supreme Court intervention

The Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision regarding a civil matter may end in a monumental First Amendment decision setting a landmark for future jurisprudence in the area.

At issue is the court’s ruling in case #2013-C-2879, which orders a Catholic priest to answer questions potentially about the content of information he heard from a then-minor female five years ago. The girl allegedly was abused sexually, told the priest in confession, who then it is argued did not follow the law. This is relevant to a suit filed by the girl’s family against the family and business of the reputed abuser and, later added as plaintiffs, the Diocese of Baton Rouge and the priest; the alleged abuser died not long after the reputed confessional sessions took place.

Louisiana law generally grants an exception to its mandatory reporting law to clergy when the communication of possible abuse of a minor or other crime comes as part of confidential communication relevant to the performance of a professional duty; in this instance, the sacrament of confession. However, the law (Code of Evidence) also states that the receiver of the communication “shall encourage that person to report the allegations to the appropriate authorities.” Also (Children's Code) stated is that "Notwithstanding any claim of privileged communication, any mandatory reporter who has cause to believe that a child's physical or mental health or welfare is endangered" by alleged conduct has a duty to report.

The suit seeks to discover whether that advice was given and if the priest thought there was endangerment, being that this at best is a judgment call and it's entirely possible the way it was communicated he did not think so. The Court says these may be discovered because it interprets the law to put the locus on what is treated as such communication in the hands of the sender of that communication, and the girl has made public what she said was communicated by both parties in a series of confessional sessions.


Democrats fantasize about Maness saving Landrieu

And so it’s come to this: if one of their leading avatars is indicative, Louisiana Democrats have become so pessimistic regarding Sen. Mary Landrieu’s chances for reelection that they place their faith in Republican candidate Rob Maness.

That comes from an opinion piece written by veteran operative James Carville, who has the honesty to admit in it that he provides aid and comfort to the Landrieu campaign. Not admitted, if he even realizes it, is that he is whistling in the wind like other observers who do not understand the serious trouble in which the campaign finds itself. Bluntly, the data and dynamics present at this time point to Landrieu’s losing.

Which perhaps explains why he mentions, in expounding upon four reasons why the contest should interest the attentive public, this:


GOP without good candidates faces CD 5 going bad

Rep. Vance McAllister, upon announcing a reversal of his previous decision not to run for reelection, in effect forced Democrats to make a decision and threw something into the Republican Party’s punchbowl.

This space being devoted to political analysis, it will eschew the more gossipy speculation about McAllister’s stated primary motivation for the turnaround, that his wife, whom he cuckolded some months ago, told him that the district’s constituents deserved his representation so that he should not unilaterally remove himself from their adulation. No doubt many a journal article will be written by marriage counseling professionals concerning the amazing speed at which this marriage found repair, the need for achieving this being the reason McAllister once gave for eschewing reelection, so that McAllister and his wife once again could tackle the unglamorous, penurious, and empty social life and standing that comes with being a Member of Congress and a spouse of one.

While comparisons between McAllister and Sen. David Vitter will get made in judging McAllister’s chances of success, the accurate ones will note the considerable dissimilarities. Vitter, who admitted to a “serious sin” believe to be consorting with prostitutes, made the announcement many years after the alleged last act, from which time he appeared to have behaved in this department without reproach. It also came after several years of service in Congress that his constituents on the whole found more than satisfactory, and three years before he ran for reelection.