- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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Jan. 28

The (Lake Charles) American Press on high school students earning college credits in dual enrollment programs:

Dual enrollment is a valuable tool that gives high school students the chance to earn college credits ahead of getting their diploma.



Louisiana should ensure that eligible juniors and seniors can take advantage of these courses. However, statistics show that hasn’t been the case.

Fewer than 20,000 of the roughly 90,000 juniors and seniors statewide took classes for high school and college credit in the 2017-2018 school year, The Advocate reported.

Another issue at hand is the imbalance between white and black students taking dual enrollment courses. Of the 20,000 students who took dual enrollment during that same school year, 65% were white, while 27% were black.

The cost of these courses - which can be up to $170 per hour of credit - is another issue state education officials are trying to address.

A draft report issued earlier this month by the Louisiana Dual Enrollment Framework Task Force stated that schools should offer at least four free dual enrollment courses.

Dual enrollment will no doubt be a major topic when state lawmakers begin the spring session March 9. Gov. John Bel Edwards - who was unsuccessful in securing two free college courses during last year’s session - likely faces another uphill battle.

The obvious hurdle revolves around how to pay for these additional courses. Louisiana currently spends roughly $17 million on dual enrollment.

There’s also the issue of training teachers to provide these classes.

Student eligibility standards for dual enrollment may change. Right now, a student needs a 2.5 grade-point average and a 19 ACT score, along with scores of 19 in math and 18 in English, to take classes for college credit.

The draft report mentioned a few recommendations to pay for the extra classes. One said Louisiana should review how other states, like Georgia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, have paid for increased access for historically disadvantaged students. Others mentioned the potential to get seed money from this year’s Legislature, and maximizing state and federal funds.

There are concerns about expanding the program. Tommy Byler, a commission member who represents the Louisiana Association of Principals, told The Advocate of principals mentioning the trouble their schools already have offering two classes for college credit.

Students who take dual enrollment are more likely to go to college and earn a degree, according to the task force’s draft report. If state lawmakers can see the positive impacts of dual enrollment, they may be more inclined to set aside extra dollars to expand it.

Louisiana should do what it can to offer these courses to eligible high school students. How and if the state will pay for an expansion remains up in the air.

We’ll have to wait and see which recommendations the task force makes during a tentatively scheduled meeting Feb. 20.

Online: https://www.americanpress.com/

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Jan. 27

The Houma Courier on the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico:

Louisiana groups working to curb the annual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico met last week in Thibodaux to update their progress.

Anyone who has followed this issue over the three decades or so it has been studied knows progress has been slow. They also know Louisiana, though it bears the lion’s share of environmental and economic harm, has the authority and wherewithal to provide only a fraction of the resources and actions it will take to curb or end the problem.

The dead zone is caused by runoff from Midwest farms and cattle pastures that flows down the Mississippi River, scientists say. The pollution, which scientists refer to as “nutrients,” stimulates an overgrowth of algae, which sink and decompose, depleting the Gulf waters of oxygen. Researchers refer to the condition as “hypoxia.” That affects local recreational and commercial fishing and shrimping, two big businesses in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes.

Fortunately, Congress has created a task force to solve the problem. The task force, formed in 1997 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, includes representatives from 12 states, five federal agencies and several American Indian tribes to reduce the pollution that feeds the dead zone.

Unfortunately, this unwieldy collection of groups, with often-conflicting interests, has yet to make substantial progress on its goal to reduce the dead zone’s size to 1,950 square miles by 2035, a 2017 study by LSU and other universities showed. At the time, the most recent five-year average was 5,410 square miles. That’s an expanse of water bigger than Connecticut where oxygen is so low fish and sea creatures either need to escape or die. River concentrations of the nitrogen compound nitrate had not declined since the 1980s, though federal taxpayers have spent more than $28 billion in the 20 Mississippi Basin states since 1995 to reduce the pollution.

“Clearly, something more or something different is needed,” the study says. “It matters little if the load-reduction target is 30 percent, 45 percent or 59 percent if insufficient resources are in place to make even modest reductions.”

The report’s recommendations include calls to change fertilizer application rates, use cover crops that prevent runoff or fast-growing crops to prevent soil erosion, improve pollution management and pursue alternatives to corn-based biofuels, which produce some of the nitrogen runoff.

At least four things might speed this process: A clear assessment from the task force of what it would cost and who is responsible for paying, a mandate from Congress to get the job done, a specific deadline from Congress for doing it, and clear and significant penalties for those who fail.

The federal-state task force is scheduled to meet Feb. 4 in Washington for an update from all of the states and agencies involved. Anyone can watch and listen during a live webcast by registering in advance at epa.gov/ms-htf. The group has been on the case for 23 years now. It’s well past time for results.

Online: https://www.houmatoday.com/

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Jan. 26

The Advocate on U.S. trade policy and a president’s ability to declare tariffs based on national security:

When you talk business strategy, the north star ought to be stability.

Any business, but particularly those in volatile commercial universes like energy, depend on the certainty of access to raw materials, markets and talents to run large enterprises.

That’s what America, as well as some of Louisiana’s most important companies, have been missing during three years of erratic trade policy out of Washington.

A new trade deal is part of an effort to defuse tensions with the giant economy of mainland China. National newspapers report that Chinese officials believe they’ve received more concessions than they’ve given in the talks.

Chinese purchases of American farm products appear to be the biggest U.S. benefit in the new deal. That’s particularly good news for Louisiana and for the port complex that is one of the major economic assets of our state. Much of America’s farm output flows down the Mississippi River.

To the extent that the China deal lowers tariffs, whether on beef or rice, or on manufactured goods that American companies need as part of their supply chains, a bit more certainty for the future is generated. We hope all this is good news.

But many tariff barriers will remain in place. And we continue to worry that our businesses might still suffer from uncertainty that need not occur.

One of the most important pieces of unfinished business on Capitol Hill for the new year is the urgent reassessment of the legal basis for President Donald Trump’s tariff wars.

Based on a vague statute passed in the early 1960s, Trump has declared the tariffs based on “national security.” The law was intended to allow snap judgments by a president on the basis of threats to strategic materials of the day, such as aluminum for jets. Instead, unilaterally, Trump used it sweepingly to achieve his political goal of protecting domestic steel-makers and threaten countries from Canada to China to do his will.

One judge asked half-seriously if the statute allows the president to impose tariffs on peanut butter in the interests of national security. An administration lawyer responded only that there is a process of determining whether national security is involved.

Right.

The sweeping abuse of this law during the Trump administration is the sort of overreach that many Republican leaders would have decried under President Barack Obama.

The courts depend on the laws as written, and if there is some agreement on the China deal, it’s still not a case of all’s well that ends well. Rather, the virus of uncertainty remains in the business climate of the nation so long as Congress fails to act on the one-man declarations that would never be countenanced by a responsible national leadership.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com/

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