Louisiana editorial roundup
The Associated Press
Feb. 21, 2018
Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:
The Town Talk on borrowing to pay for kids' college:
Higher education is expensive, but families have figured out how to pay for it. They borrow money. While much attention has been given to the debt incurred by college students, parents may end up owing and sacrificing the most.
This is why it is up to parents to carefully consider what is reasonable and possible when it comes to financing education for their adult children.
Society encourages young people to move immediately from high school to college, but this does not make sense for some families — especially if it drives parents into debt.
Gone are the days when students could borrow enough money on their own to finance a higher education. Although they can secure federal loans they're responsible for repaying, the money offered may not be enough to cover tuition, books and other expenses.
So they turn to private lenders, which means also turning to parents.
A tightened credit market following the financial crisis has resulted in rules that almost always require a co-signer for a private student loan. A parent or grandparent who co-signs becomes equally liable for the debt.
Increased parental borrowing is certainly another reminder that college is too expensive for many families. Students at Louisiana's public universities should expect tuition to rise next year, but they don't know how much because legislators are still debating how best to handle the state's projected revenue shortfall.
Policymakers and schools should work to bring down college costs. In the meantime, parents must be realistic about what makes sense for their own futures.
If you have to borrow thousands of dollars for your offspring to attend a private college, perhaps they should go somewhere less expensive. Or live at home and attend a community college. Or take a year off to work full-time to save money. Or secure a job with a company that helps pay tuition.
Not immediately going to college may be exactly what some young people need. Working 40 hours a week in a minimum-wage job can do wonders to help someone understand the value of higher education. It buys extra time for their brains to develop. It may improve their chances of staying in school and earning a degree. And isn't that the point?
Education debt is especially painful when students do not complete their education. How upset are parents going to be when they're making payments for a child who stopped attending class?
About 25 percent of students who started college in the fall of 2015 did not attend any U.S. institution in the fall of 2016, according to the most recent data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Think about that. One in four students. They did not stay at the same college. They did not transfer to a different one. They were not in school the following year. Yet any money they or their parents borrowed must still be paid back.
Higher education is key to earning a decent living and becoming a well-rounded person. Parents understandably want to help their children access that education. Yet being a good parent also means setting an example about being financially responsible.
The Courier on Louisiana needing sexual harassment policy and training:
Louisiana does not have a statewide policy for how its various departments should handle allegations of sexual misconduct.
Clearly, that is a situation that should be rectified.
Not only is there no policy for handling the allegations, there also is no training program that is required for all state workers.
That, too, should change.
Civil Service Director Byron Decoteau told several state lawmakers last week that each department has been left to devise its own way to train its workers and deal with charges of wrongdoing.
That means that departments could be better or worse at protecting its employees from workplace predators.
But the question of protecting our public employees shouldn't be left to chance, with each worker hoping that he or she ends up in a department where there happens to be adequate policies and training.
It is far too important that training and workplace compliance is done correctly in the interest of all state employees.
Unfortunately, state lawmakers have to date been able to pass just a resolution that says each agency should establish training programs on sexual harassment.
But only about 60 percent of all state employees participate in the training each year.
The legislators who held the meeting last week are beginning the process of studying the current situation and possibly introducing ways to strengthen it during the legislative session that's scheduled to begin in March.
It is encouraging to see some movement on an issue where improvement is sorely needed. The state must take an active approach in training its workers what they can or cannot, should or should not do. And it must have in place a clear method of handling complaints, one that encourages workers to come forward with legitimate complaints and is able to quickly and thoroughly investigate those complaints. It must also have a way to punish those who violate the rights of their co-workers or employees.
This is a commonsense approach to a problem that permeates far too many workplaces. And the fact that it is lacking leaves our public employees with too little protection and education.
"We seem like we have a lot of improvement to do," said state Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, who is leading the effort. "What concerns me is there seems to be no continuity in terms of how it's administered and how it's tracked."
More improvement is needed. And Barrow is leading Louisiana in that direction.
The Advocate on why Louisiana needs a stable budget:
For all the criticism of Gov. John Bel Edwards' decisions on property tax breaks for industries, or lawsuits against energy companies he's pushed, or his rhetoric on business taxes being too low, it's really his opponents in the Legislature who have provided the single biggest obstacle to economic development in Louisiana: uncertainty.
A state budget in chronic crisis during most of two terms under former Gov. Bobby Jindal is now a drag on the state's future. Businesses around the country and the world have taken note. Wall Street bond houses have reduced the state's credit outlook.
We might agree with some of the governor's critics on several issues, but what can't be reasonably argued is that he is wrong about the harmful impact of an unstable state budget. It threatens not only today's constituents but prospective businesses we want to bring to Louisiana.
The politics of change are daunting. A significant number of legislators, particularly in the GOP House, refuse to vote for any taxes, even to substitute for other taxes that could be repealed. The governor rightly pointed out that tax reform bills have been bottled up in the House Ways and Means Committee, where the leadership has stacked members hostile to Edwards, a Democrat.
The mechanics are further complicated by a two-thirds rule for tax increases, even for replacements for existing — or, in this year's case, expiring — taxes totaling more than $1 billion.
With Louisiana's economy growing, albeit slowly, the revenue loss is estimated at $994 million. As the governor was also correct to note, opponents in the Legislature cannot object to that number and yet refuse to identify specific and realistic cuts to make to the budget as an alternative to new taxes.
Either option, it seems, is unpopular. But the business community within and beyond Louisiana does not care if legislators are weak or merely confused. What matters is results: "Economist after economist, task force after task force, over several decades and during Democratic and Republican administrations, have recommended long-term solutions to our problems, and yet we continue to ignore their advice," the governor argued, once again correctly. "These experts — our experts — have been telling us over and over again how to pull ourselves up and out of this mess. We can take the best practices we see in neighboring states and implement them here in Louisiana."
Or we can once more, in the fifth special session the governor has called in a little over two years, fail to act. The consequences include a future of more uncertainty and political maneuvering in the place of policy adjustments that are well-known to members of the Legislature.
Let's not wait again.