Monday, August 17, 2009

It Starts at the Bottom

A better public education system in Louisiana will lead to the preservation of a strong higher-ed program. Sustained success is critical!

Louisiana is strong candidate for share of $4.3 billion grant
by Sarah Carr, The Times-Picayune
Monday August 17, 2009, 6:36 AM
(from BusinessReport)
Louisiana is one of two states that have the best chance of getting a share of a $4.3 billion grant from the U.S. Department of Education, according to an analysis from a national education group. According to the Times-Picayune, The New Teacher Project says that Louisiana and Florida are the only two states that are "highly competitive" for getting a share of the "race to the top" funds. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has control over the money, Duncan said he wants to give the money to states that have strong academic standards, have programs to improve teacher and principal quality, and have mechanisms to turn struggling schools around. In the past, Duncan has said Louisiana is "uniquely positioned" to get a share of the funds. Read the Times-Picayune story here

Monday, June 22, 2009

Senate, House Running Out of Time

The Louisiana Legislative Session is to close no later than 6 p.m. this Thursday. Four days are all that remain to work on the year's upcoming budget.

At this point, the House and Senate are at odds regarding use of the rainy day fund, Obama's stimulus plan and delaying a scheduled tax break (not a tax increase like some may want you to believe).

Obviously, this is not a one-year budgetary crisis, and even though I'm incredibly passionate about maintaining higher education in Louisiana - both as a testament to the importance of education and as an economic necessity for the state - I'm intelligent enough to understand that the proposed cuts to higher-ed will not disappear in their entirety. But steps have been taken to alleviate these cuts to a generous degree. For the legislature to abandon those steps in the session's waning moments would be devastating to Louisiana and be indicative of the terrible lack of efficiency in the state's style of government.

I'm confident that the legislature will at least alleviate a huge portion of the proposed cuts, and once the allocation is made to higher education, those charged with efficiency of that sector will take a close look at the state's institutions and make allocations wisely and accordingly. I'm certain you can deduce where I stand on that front, but I will reserve opinions on that for a later post.

Read up on the latest developments in the Advocate:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Young and the Restlessly Misguided - Defending L.A. SB 335 against the Louisiana Young Republicans

Today the Louisiana Young Republicans Federation sent out a press release that was picked up by the Dead Pelican praising opposition to SB 335 and spinning the bill as a Democrat-authored tax increase. Oh, young ones:

"The Louisiana Young Republican Federation thanks Governor Jindal and the Young Republican members of the Louisiana Legislature who stood tall and publicly opposed raising the income taxes of working families in Louisiana."

They're not the only ones speaking out against SB 335 as a "tax increase." All sorts of Republican opposition, including LA Party Chairman Roger Villere, is coming out of the woodwork to do their due diligence in demonizing Democratic legislation by spinning emotion-laced claims of tax increases and foulcry for Louisiana families. You can read Villere's misleading pleas for action here:

Firstly, if you're not caught up on the legislation, check out the news links to the right side of this post and brush up on it. SB 335 is legislation aiming to delay income tax-break increases from 65% to 100% on certain items.

Let's be real. This isn't a tax increase, no matter how much the Republicans and "fiscal conservatives" want to label it as. SB 335 merely delays a scheduled tax break. It is not levying a new tax. It is postponing a tax break.

As for those like Forgotston who want to claim the bill is unconstitutional because the Senate, not the House, is raising revenue, get real again! This is a postponement of a payout, not authorization to raise revenue. It's saving money that already exists, not generating more.

I consider myself, for the most part, a fiscal conservative and an overall moderate with no partisan ties (affiliations that I feel can blind people, but that's for another post). And yet, these attacks on SB 335 don't seem to be in favor of fiscal conservation, but in favor of partisan warfare.

If you want to talk fiscal conservation, let's talk about fiscal responsibility. How about saving all that money that is going to go into the pockets of people and provide a short-lived blip for the economy, and putting it toward a long-term economic development investment for the state in, I don't know, higher education? And let's not forget health care either. I'd rather the state's residents have adequate health care from adequately-educated LSU-Shreveport medical graduates than make sure everyone can afford to spring for their second iPhone.

It's certainly not a Republican consensus, Audra Shay. You might get Ellen Carmichael's approval, but there are other Republican contributors to this cause and this blog that will disagree with you.

I think I can't say it any better than the Times-Picayune editorial staff. Read their latest output, and before you pin it as liberal dribble, read the whole thing. Everything is in there.

Senate Finance Committee - Knights in Shining Armor?

As we posted previously, the Senate Finance Committee has been doing diligent work to help preserve as best they can Louisiana's higher education by finding alternatives to a massive $219 million budget cut for this upcoming year.

The Committee has not only called for use of Louisiana's "Rainy Day" fund - a combination of surplus and other funds for use during, you guessed it, economic crises - but they have also passed SB 335, which will stall tax breaks and put a freeze on deductables from state income tax at 65%. This bill is contentious in both the House and the governor's office, but the Senate seems confident in its passage.

With SB 335 alone, the proposed cuts will drop more than half to $100 million - still a hefty cut but relatively much more manageable for Louisiana's higher-ed institutions. At these levels a cut to LSU would certainly be less drastic than previously expected. And if a portion of the rainy day funds go to education, the effects would be even less. Understandably, many areas of the state's economy need attention, and those most important areas should receive rainy day consideration.

SOS - Save Our Schools thinks education should be right there at the top of the list.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Some for me, some for you :)

Jindal confirms willingness to tap rainy day fund

by Bill Barrow, The Times-Picayune
Monday June 01, 2009, 2:45 PM

BATON ROUGE -- Offering the latest volley in the Legislature's ongoing debate over budget cuts, Gov. Bobby Jindal said today that he is willing to sign a budget that would include $50 million in higher education financing taken from the state's rainy day savings account.

More here: 

Friday, May 29, 2009

Butch Gautreaux's Proposed TOPS Cap Defeated

A big victory in the Louisiana legislature today for higher education as the Senate Education Committee almost unanimously killed Gautreaux's proposed TOPS cap. Read the article in the Advocate:

Big props to LSU's student representation at the capitol, with J Hudson and Martina Scheuermann getting pub in the Advocate.

I found this particular quote of Gautreaux's to be quite funny:

"Gautreaux said the change would help stabilize TOPS without imposing undue burdens on students and their parents.

'This bill does not prevent anyone from attending college,' he told the committee. 'Let’s be honest.'"

Your bill would not have prevented Louisiana high school students who are TOPS eligible from attending college, Sen. Gautreaux. You're right about that. But it would have prevented them from attending college in Louisiana. The top students would not stay in Louisiana to receive a college education if they weren't eligible for such a great financial assistance package - they'd head elsewhere.

Business Community Echoes Sentiment! Don't Cut Higher Education!

Groups ask to kill cuts to colleges

Advocate Capitol News Bureau
Published: May 29, 2009 - Page: 1A

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the business-funded Blueprint Louisiana group asked the Legislature on Thursday to eliminate all proposed budget cuts for higher education.

The request to the Senate Finance Committee was to allow colleges to evolve and adapt to the recession economy before instituting any of the proposed “draconian” cuts of 15 percent of their state funds.

The arguments from the business community were even stronger than from higher education officials, who have asked that their proposed $219 million in cuts be halved.

“Don’t cut higher education so much that you gut it and lose it and set higher education back 20 years,” said Blueprint member Jimmy Maurin, chairman of Stirling Properties in Covington.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jindal's Getting Phone Calls

So I realize I went off on the Governor in my last post on this blog, but it was heartfelt and I meant it, and I still mean it. But I do understand he has a tough job ahead; I just hope he sees how important higher education is to this state.

It turns out he might be made to see if he keeps getting calls on the subject. This is a mass Facebook message I received per my membership in the group "I Signed the Petition to Protect Louisiana Education!"

FROM: Joe Abraham

A friend called the Governor's office to express his concerns about cuts to higher education. The staffer who took the call said, "We're starting to get a lot of phone calls about education funding."

I just called; the staffer listened politely, took notes, and thanked me for calling.

So please, take a sec, call Governor Jindal's office, and express to him your concerns about education funding in Louisiana:

And please, pass this on to your friends via eMail, Facebook, phone, and anything else you can think of!


I intend on calling later in the day. I urge you to do the same! Any avenues we can use to express our displeasure - or in my case, incredulity - about the situation, will help.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Stall Tax Break = Save Higher Education

State senator: fund higher ed, stall tax break

A Louisiana lawmaker has won early approval for her plan to ease budget cuts in higher education. Sen. Lydia Jackson, a Shreveport Democrat, won approval from the Senate's tax committee on Thursday to postpone a tax break involving charitable deductions that was to take effect next year, for the 2009 tax year. Jackson's plan would delay by three years a partial rollback of the so-called "Stelly plan." Jackson said her intent is to use the resulting $118 million to reduce planned spending cuts at higher education institutions. Jackson has support of the Senate leadership, but opposition from Gov. Bobby Jindal. Her bill next moves to the Senate floor.

I think this might be the solution we need to put money back into higher education. Governor Jindal needs to understand that everyone does not have to comply with what he thinks is best! That is why we have three branches of government. I think his opposition to this bill is disappointing. Unless he has another plan that will put money back into higher education then he needs to sign the bill and smile.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

we're making some progress...

Our message is resonating!  Now, more than ever, is the time to keep pushing for what we're fighting for!

From The Advocate (5/8/09):

"The Shaw Group on Thursday rejected accepting $28.5 million from the megafund to build a nuclear reactor component facility in Lake Charles.

Shaw Chairman J.M. Bernhard Jr. urged the state to put the money into higher education, which is facing $220 million in budget cuts because of a $1.3 billion drop in state revenue."

"Lawmakers sent Gov. Bobby Jindal’s $27 billion state operating budget proposal to the House floor Thursday after adding money for higher education, health care and arts programs.

In order to balance spending with decreased revenues, Jindal proposed $219 million in cuts to higher education and more than $400 million in cuts to health care.

Legislators reduced some — but not all — of those cuts.

Using state dollars, lawmakers directed:

In  $50 million more than what the governor recommended to the state’s public colleges and universities."