- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

Feb. 20

American Press, Lake Charles, La., on pre-K education reform being approved:

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s push to establish standards and accountability for prekindergarten education has, according to proponents, hit a snag: lack of funding.

State lawmakers approved the governor’s Pre-K education reform package, known as Act 3, in 2012, and pilot programs have been established in 15 parishes, including Calcasieu. Another 15 parishes are expected to roll out pilot programs later this year.

But early childhood advocates say the implementation has been hindered by the lack of new dollars.

“If you are not funding at a level to provide quality, then how are you going to get it?” said Melanie Bronfin, director of the Policy Institute with the Louisiana Partnership for Children & Families in New Orleans.

Act 3 was designed to ensure that public, private and government-funded early education programs adhered to certain standards and benchmarks for their students. Its goal is to establish early-learning performance guidelines for children from infants to age 3 and academic standards for 3- and 4-year-olds.

By providing these various programs with standards, the Jindal administration hopes to alleviate the alarmingly high percentage of children who enter kindergarten programs measurably behind their peer group and/or not ready to learn.

Part of the issue is a nearly 60 percent cut in federal money that funded the Child Care Assistance Program. The program is overseen by the state Department of Children and Family Services.

State Superintendent of Education John White said the reform is doable without an infusion of more money.

Insisting on standards to improve early childhood education in Louisiana and funding it may not be at the top of the agenda for most state lawmakers in the coming legislative session, but few topics have as much potential to impact the overall quality of education in Louisiana.




Feb. 25

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La., on the possibility of a logjam broken:

When it comes to herding the 435 cats in the U.S. House of Representatives, a simple majority is often hard to come by these days. Timely passage of most things can be hard. That is why it will be a considerable accomplishment if the Louisiana delegation and the GOP leadership can get a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules and move a much-needed bill on flood insurance rates.

The bill fashioned by intensive negotiations differs in some respects from an earlier Senate-passed measure, but both are intended to provide long-term fixes for the high rate increases mandated by a 2012 law retooling the National Flood Insurance Program.

The NFIP’s cheaper rates have not been sustainable in light of such major losses as hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2010. The storms broke the bank.

But the flawed approach that would have put drastic rate increases into place too quickly should be fixed, and it’s a good thing the House’s GOP leadership has signed on to the notion of significant and permanent fixes for rates. This is not only important to coastal Louisiana but other states, so there is some optimism that the House can be moved to get together on the suspension of the rules.

That is key, and the House bill may even be more favorable to Louisiana’s interests than the original Senate measure. But even if Louisiana lawmakers gain approval of the bill, a conference committee to resolve differences with the Senate will be needed.

“We’ve worked hard to try to get some structural changes in the program” favorable to Louisiana, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, told editors and reporters of The Advocate.

We commend those involved in these negotiations. Many modest homes would see unaffordable rate increases if existing law is not repealed.




Feb. 17

The News-Star, Monroe, La., on AP increase encouraging:

The United Way of Northeast Louisiana announced on Monday that it had raised $3.7 million, the most funds raised in the past 10 years.

While we agree with United Way officials that workers in northeastern Louisiana always are willing to step up and donate, we believe it’s because our United Way has a good story to tell about the programs it supports with their investments.

The Cypress Award, the highest honor given to a local company and its employees by United Way of Northeast Louisiana, was presented to CenturyLink. The company raised $736,712.

The 2013 campaign saw an increase in 3.35 percent in giving over last year, when United Way raised $3.62 million

Campaign Chairman Billy Haddad said the campaign would not have been possible without the support of the employees that stepped up their giving and the businesses that matched their employees’ contributions.

Janet Durden, president of the United Way, said businesses and organizations vowed to be a part of changing lives by advocating and volunteering their time in the fundraising effort.

“They truly know what it means to live united and that is truly life changing,” Durden said. “We hoped to have a slight increase but we never expected a 3.35 percent increase. The generosity of this community really is overwhelming. I think this is a real strong statement that people want to be part of improving the community and helping people.”

Many people in our community are touched in some way every day by the programs of the United Way of Northeast Louisiana.

To the volunteers who helped with this year’s campaign and to the workers who pledged their support, we say thank you on behalf of those whose lives are improved by programs of the United Way.



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