- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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July 27

The Advocate on the state’s film industry:

Gov. Bobby Jindal was a big fan of financial incentives to lure businesses to Louisiana. But there was one program that even his administration regarded as wasteful: Louisiana’s generous giveaways designed to transform our state into the Hollywood of Dixie.



Louisiana’s program was the richest in the land, and for one year at least, we eclipsed California as the mecca of filmmaking. But the gains came at great cost, and a state study found that the return to taxpayers was less than a quarter for every dollar spent.

The Legislature began crimping the money pipeline in 2015, and predictably filmmakers have moved on to more accommodating states.

Still, the state will spend $180 million on film subsidies in this fiscal year, money that could have covered the unprecedented shortfalls in TOPS scholarships and elementary and secondary education. Everybody loves seeing Louisiana on the big screen, but for students and parents who now have to fork over college tuition money, the bill is coming due.

So it’s good to see our new governor, John Bel Edwards, has ordered a study to determine what to do about the film program.

The effort has been a success in terms of luring pictures to Louisiana, and hopefully we can find a way to build on that.

But in looking for ways to reshape the program, the state needs to keep three goals in mind.

- The subsidy program needs to be affordable. The giveaways had grown to more than a quarter billion dollars a year before lawmakers capped the grants at $180 million a year for three years. That’s still far too much. North Carolina, with an economy twice the size of Louisiana, has a $30 million cap on film subsidies.

- The program needs to focus its benefits on Louisiana artists and businesses, rather than Hollywood firms and talent.

- Louisiana should not subsidize the film industry indefinitely. The current program has gone on for a decade and a half and cost more than $1 billion, but as soon as the giveaways were capped, many of the film projects moved on to other states. That raises questions about whether all that spending really created a local industry that’s built to last. Government has a role to play in developing new industries for our people, but taxpayers expect firms to survive on their own. Supporters of the Hollywood subsidies need to articulate a schedule under which the incentives can be withdrawn.

Our state has spent a generation working to diversify an economy that was once dangerously dependent on energy. The motion picture industry has been a part of that success, and we need to find a way to keep the cameras focused on Louisiana. But we cannot afford to get into a bidding war with richer states and we cannot afford the program we have now.

Online:

https://www.theadvocate.com

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July 25

The (Lake Charles) American Press on Louisiana’s ACT scores:

The number of students achieving college-going ACT scores has reached an all-time high in Louisiana.

State superintendent John White said Monday that a record 25,144 high school seniors in the class of 2016 earned what is considered a college-going score, which is 18 or higher. That’s an increase of 462 students from 24,682 in 2015 and an increase of 6,837 students since 2012.

The higher scores means thousands more students have the opportunity to attend two- and four-year colleges without the requirement of remediation, and making more students than ever before eligible for TOPS funding

The Louisiana class of 2016 earned an average composite score of 19.5 on the 36-point test, the state Department of Education said.

ACT has not yet released national results this year. Test-takers averaged 21 in 2015.

The average scores for Southwest Louisiana parishes were Allen, 19.8; Beauregard, 19.8; Calcasieu, 19.7; Cameron, 19.4; Jeff Davis, 19.5; and Vernon, 20.6.

Well done, students.

“This continued progress on the ACT is further evidence that Louisiana’s students are as smart and as capable as any in this country,” White said in a news release.

Yes, they are.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education deserves to be praised, as well.

In 2012, BESE adopted a policy to give all high school students in the state free access to the ACT. The plan was part of a comprehensive package to increase access to college and a career for high school students.

In fact, Louisiana became the 10th state to expand ACT access to all students in 2013.

“The results demonstrate once again that our state’s plan to raise expectations is working,” White said. “The results also show, however, that we cannot stop here. While more students than ever before are qualifying for universities and community colleges, too many are entering college only to withdraw later. We must continue to raise expectations, equipping every student with skills they need to succeed in education after high school.”

White will visit Lake Charles Boston Academy of Learning, 1509 Enterprise Boulevard, at 2 p.m. Tuesday as part of a statewide tour to discuss whether to change state policies following the passage of a new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. At the forum, White will also welcome your feedback on what updates need to be made to the state’s education system.

Online:

https://www.americanpress.com

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July 27

The (Monroe) News-Star on the Monroe Regional Airport:

Continued enhancements at the Monroe Regional Airport make a compelling case to “Fly Monroe.”

Every city’s airport serves as the community’s portal, a first impression. For years, Monroe’s airport was tired and outdated. Ticket prices out of Monroe were noncompetitive. Too many travelers were choosing to drive to Shreveport or Jackson, Mississippi, to fly.

Today, the three airlines serving Monroe provide convenient connections at three major hub airports. Prices are once again competitive. And in the era of TSA aggravation, flying out of Monroe remains pleasant with short waits for security clearances.

And the new terminal provides visitors a good first impression of a clean, modern small city befitting the home of a Fortune 500 company like CenturyLink. It’s inviting and convenient.

On Friday, the city unveiled its latest enhancements at the airport that promises ease and enjoyment for airline passengers. Among them is the Bayou Room Airport Lounge, a passenger seating lounge area once passengers clear security. The enhancements to the lounge include two business work stations, mobile device charging stations, two flat-screen televisions and an aquarium.

New seating, interior accent pieces and area lighting showcase the lounge area that is highlighted with original photography by Patti Stewart.

Every improvement builds the case to fly locally.

From the moment of arrival, it’s a relative bargain. Wi-Fi is free in Monroe, and so is the coffee. Not so in other cities.

Parking at the airport is cheap.

There’s no endless walking down cold concourses. In fact, you can be dropped off within feet of everything you need.

A new security monitor station and upstairs reception area at the airport terminal are other projects that have been completed to upgrade the facility.

The continuing emphasis placed on the airport is particularly important as more business visitors travel to Monroe to visit CenturyLink, IBM or any number of other businesses in northeastern Louisiana.

If Monroe can attract a nonstop flight to Denver to accommodate CenturyLink’s needs, it opens the potential of another whole market with flights for winter sport fun like skiing.

The airport, once an eyesore, is a point of pride to the community, a cheery welcome to visitors and a convenient place for the weary traveler to come home to, with baggage claim and parking lot just steps away.

But like anything else in a competitive world, standing pat is losing ground. Continuing improvements at the airport will keep the fliers from taking off elsewhere.

Online:

https://www.thenewsstar.com

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