- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

July 7

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on the fate of Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White

To the casual listener, it sounds as if John Bel Edwards plans, if elected governor this fall, to fire the state superintendent of education.

Edwards criticized Superintendent John White - formerly an administrator in New Orleans and New York City schools - as “not qualified to be a middle school principal” in Louisiana.

It is not the first time Edwards and White have clashed. The Democratic representative from Amite has frequently backed bills opposed by the superintendent, and vice versa. We believe that White has been more often correct on the merits of the policies that have, in our view, positively enhanced public education in Louisiana.

As a leading member of the House Education Committee, Edwards knows that the decision on the next superintendent is not his alone. The superintendent is picked, and has a contract with, the 11-member state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

BESE is of course heavily influenced by the governor - just look at White’s selection. When his predecessor Paul Pastorek left unexpectedly, the young head of the Recovery School District was picked by a board with close ties to Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Jindal had supported many of the elected BESE members in their campaigns and had three direct appointments on the board. White and Jindal then were on the same page on adoption of new Common Core standards and broadly on the governor’s other education policies.

Edwards is a fierce critic of the Jindal policies and would doubtless roll many of them back if elected and if he can muster the approval of the Legislature and with BESE.

The latter are elected this fall, too, and it is not clear that Edwards - even if elected governor - will have the time and influence to affect the BESE races on the same ballot.

Moreover, this is not a straight-up Democratic candidate versus a largely Republican BESE fight. Not only has Jindal flip-flopped on the Common Core issue, but two Republican candidates for governor - Scott Angelle and David Vitter - share the opposition to the new standards voiced by Edwards. Another Republican, Jay Dardenne, is alone in standing up for the tougher academic standards that White and state educators have put into place.

Common Core is one issue, but Edwards - his wife is a teacher - has more generally pushed the teachers unions’ criticisms of other Jindal education policies; under Jindal, with White’s support, the state has greatly expanded charter schools and a tuition voucher program for private schools. The Republicans, broadly speaking, are backing those Jindal policies, even the candidates at odds with White over Common Core.

We don’t know how the election will turn out, but even if it turns out as Edwards wants it to, the fact is that White’s supporters on BESE, if returned to their own offices, might have a lot to say about whether the superintendent stays or goes.




July 6

American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on licensing all day care services:

Children truly are our future, and it’s a future we in Louisiana need to invest strongly in.

Currently the youngest of our children face a daily dilemma. Day care in Louisiana is divided into two types: those licensed and those that are not.

Any day care service that serves under seven children a day does not have to be licensed by the state. Those serving seven or more do.

While clearly there are several quality day care services that do great work with fewer than seven, we believe all facilities should be forced to follow the same rules and regulations.

Only then can we guarantee that when it comes to their early years, no child in Louisiana gets left behind.

In at least 11 states, caring for even one stranger’s child necessitates obtaining a license. In Louisiana small day cares, often referred to as family home centers, may actually be a dominant form of child care in our state.

If that’s the case, or even close, it could be that every day more of our children are being watched by unlicensed people instead of those trained and vouched for by the state.

The seven-child licensing rules in Louisiana were put into place decades ago, back when communities were smaller and neighborhoods were more tight-knit.

Just like everything else, when it comes to child care, times have changed. We think the time has come to make all facilities licensed to protect our children.

While we accept the fact that this may increase the cost of child care, and possibly add to a family’s hardships, it is impossible for us to put a price tag on a young person’s care.

We are not trying to indict any one place or any one group, but we want to promote an idea that has been needed for a long time now.

This is not about the businesses - this is about the children. Keeping them in safe environments and out of harm’s way should be first and foremost in any conversation on the subject.

This may seem like another instance of big brother watching over us, or big government getting involved in private industry, but there are certain things that trump such concerns.

The care of our children is clearly one of them.

It is also important that if the state takes on this added responsibility that it also does its due diligence in making sure its officials who oversee the licensing of child care facilities also have the best interest of the child in mind.

We call upon our officials in Baton Rouge to make the right decisions when it comes to this issue and hope that by doing so the best interest of the child is also their greatest concern as well.




July 5

Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, on state possibly jump starting coastal restoration:

Louisiana’s estimated $8.7 billion share of BP payments to settle government damage claims from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster would give the state a significant source of revenue for its $50 billion coastal restoration master plan. The proposed global settlement announced Thursday (July 2) would funnel an estimated $500 million per year over 15 years to the state’s restoration projects, officials said. In addition, Louisiana stands to get a sizable share of $5.5 billion in federal Clean Water Act penalties BP would pay under the agreement.

That would be the largest infusion of money for restoration Louisiana has had at its disposal. State leaders still would have to find revenue sources to put the full 50-year master plan in place, but this would give them more time to do that.

If approved by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who is the trial judge in the federal government’s case against BP, money from the settlement could be paying for coastal projects within two years. That would be a significant benefit for our coast, which is eroding rapidly.

Although the proposed $18.7 billion settlement - which also includes Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Texas - is the largest environmental award in history, the Clean Water Act portion is smaller than many had hoped. Not everyone believes BP is paying what it should for the immense damage caused by oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days from the company’s broken well. That is understandable.

But it also is the nature of settling cases. The upside is cutting short what could have been years of legal challenges by BP to Judge Barbier’s rulings and speeding up access to the inevitable payouts.

That is especially true for Louisiana, which bore the brunt of the environmental damage along its already vulnerable coastline. Our state has a rapidly closing window to reverse years of erosion and keep more land from washing away.

A joint statement by major environmental and restoration groups noted the significance of a quick resolution. “In sharp contrast to the decades-long litigation following the Exxon Valdez spill, federal and state leaders have wasted no time in closing this case,” said the statement released by the Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation. “Their swift work means meaningful restoration efforts are imminent.”

A portion of $1 billion BP had committed before the settlement is being used to rebuild western Shell Island in Plaquemines Parish. The Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority is about to award a contract for reconstruction of Whiskey Island, off Terrebonne Parish, also using that BP money, authority executive director Kyle Graham said.

There are many more projects in line in the master plan, which was adopted in 2007. Up to now, funding has been patched together. The state expects to get $200 million a year from federal oil and gas revenue sharing beginning in 2017.

But President Barack Obama has proposed diverting most of that money from Louisiana to the federal budget. That would be an awful blow to restoration efforts and unfair to the state, which for decades has gotten virtually no share of the royalties collected off our shores by the federal government.

Former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu worked for years to get a share of that money for Louisiana and other states that bear the costs of offshore oil and gas production.

The pipelines from those wells cut through Louisiana marshland and are partly responsible for erosion.

Offshore revenue sharing plus money from the BP settlement could go a long way toward reversing that land loss.

Of course, it is important to hold state officials to their pledge to spend the money on shoring up the coast. It should help that the master plan has legislative approval and the federal Restore Act also guides how money can be spent.

Voters will choose the next governor and the new Legislature this fall. The candidates for those posts must commit to putting all these resources toward strengthening the coast.

Members of Louisiana’s congressional delegation promised when the settlement was announced to do their part to ensure that settlement money is distributed as promised under the Restore Act.

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, a Lafayette Republican, said: “I will work with the Louisiana delegation as well as our state and local officials to ensure that these funds will be used for their intended purpose: rebuilding our coast and revitalizing the Gulf.”

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a New Orleans Democrat, said: “Today’s settlement is critical to bolstering the long-term health of the Gulf of Mexico, and providing much needed funds to the local communities whose natural resources and economic vitality were damaged by the spill. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure these resources are properly allocated to achieve these goals.”

That must be the mission of all of our political leaders. The future of coastal Louisiana and every one who lives and works here depends on spending this money the right way.



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