Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:


Aug. 28

American Press of Lake Charles on education funding:

Funding for higher education in Louisiana has stabilized over the last two years, but that isn't enough to ensure that prospective students get the quality education they deserve. McNeese State University, for example, is trying to raise funds locally to do some of the necessary extras that have gone unfunded for nearly a decade.

Gov. John Bel Edwards told the state Board of Regents recently there has been little construction on college campuses unless it was funded by student fees or with major donations. As for the future, he said the possibility of additional higher education funding would depend on next year's revenues.

The prospect of additional taxation is out of the question since 2019 is an election year and lawmakers struggled this year to get a 0.45 percent increase in the state's sales tax.

If there are additional revenues next year, Edwards indicated K-12 education would have the highest priority. Those grades haven't received their 2.75 percent annual increase for a number of years. If they get it next year, the governor said half of it could be used for long-overdue teacher pay increases.

Higher education institutions can only hope there are sufficient revenues to also give them some extra funding. Robert Levy, chairman of the Board of Regents, said colleges and universities desperately need new dollars.

Meanwhile, Edwards told the regents he hopes to strengthen Louisiana's online college offerings to give citizens with some college preparation an opportunity to get their degrees. The Advocate noted that possibility has been a frequent topic for Monty Sullivan, president of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System.

Sullivan has helped take his system to a new level of achievement that is quickly training people for jobs that have been hard to fill. Locally, there has been increased cooperation between Sowela Technical Community College and McNeese. The leaders of both institutions are coming up with new ways to increase local funding and get more students enrolled.

While all of these moves are commendable, it doesn't relieve the state of its responsibility to find increased funding for K-12 and higher education. Both are the major avenues for giving Louisiana citizens their best opportunity to live full and productive lives.



Aug. 29 Times-Picayune on life since Hurricane Katrina:

Aug. 29 is the dividing line for New Orleanians. Before and after. Pre-K and post-K. The old life and the new life.

Thirteen years after Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches, there are still signs of loss. But the horrific damage done in 2005 is muted and in some cases invisible. Much of the city and the region has rebuilt. Downtown New Orleans is thriving.

Still, those awful days are imprinted on the people who lived through them. Maybe we don't think of them as often or ache the way we did in the months after the flooding. But the memories aren't far beneath the surface: the piles of ruined furniture and family treasures, the coating of mud on everything, the smell of muck and mold. Most of all, the neighbors who were lost.

Katrina and the levee failures took 1,833 lives and displaced a million people, tens of thousands of whom never returned. Those are losses that diminished us all.

Today, as they have on every anniversary, people will gather at the Katrina Monument at Shell Beach to honor the St. Bernard Parish residents who died during the storm.

A second-line Sunday in New Orleans was held to "remember the lives lost, honor the resiliency of the community, and advocate for the people most devastated by Hurricane Katrina." The Hip Hop Caucus, New Orleans Katrina Commemoration Foundation and others asked for remembrance and action. They're advocating for action on climate change and policies to ensure that low income and people of color aren't left out of disaster recovery.

Census numbers show the disproportionate effect the 2005 disaster had on black residents. New Orleans had 91,274 fewer black residents in 2017 than in 2000, according to the Data Center. By comparison, there were 7,945 fewer white residents in 2017.

The loss of so many African-American residents left whole neighborhoods largely empty and broke up communities that had strong ties.

Thirteen years after Katrina, the city is grappling with a lack of affordable housing and the ramifications of gentrification.

We have to find a way to balance the economic growth the city needs to thrive and affordability. The lower-income workers who keep New Orleans running should be able to afford to live in their city.

On this anniversary, we should all dedicate ourselves to solving those and the city's other challenges — a high crime rate, unequal schools and the threat of flooding.

New Orleans is a singular city. Its joie de vivre is unmatched.

The word resilience is overused these days. But the people of New Orleans and our region embody it.

Essentially 100 percent of St. Bernard Parish was flooded on Aug. 29, 2005. Eighty percent of New Orleans was under water after the federal levees collapsed during the storm.

Some people doubted us. Then-U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert was among the first. Two days after Katrina, he told an Illinois newspaper: "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed." He also implied the city shouldn't be rebuilt.

He backtracked, but he'd made clear that he didn't believe in us. He wasn't the only one, just the most high-profile.

Yet here we are, 13 years later, celebrating New Orleans' tricentennial. We've had a tremendous amount of help from tens of thousands of people from across the nation — and the world — to get to this moment. We forever will be grateful to all of them.

So, today, let's give thanks for how far we've come together.



Aug. 28

The Advocate of Baton Rouge on U.S. Sen. John McCain's 2008 trip to Louisiana during his presidential campaign:

When U.S. Sen. John McCain, of Arizona, ran for president in 2008 as the Republican nominee, he got 59 percent of the vote in reliably red Louisiana. He probably would have carried the state without a single visit to Louisiana during the campaign.

But McCain, who died Saturday at 81, did come to Louisiana in 2008, perhaps most memorably to the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans that had, three years before, gone underwater when the levees broke after Hurricane Katrina.

Surrounded by the area's gutted homes, and accompanied by then-Gov. Bobby Jindal, McCain made a promise. "Never again," he told his audience, "will a disaster of this nature be handled in the terrible and disgraceful way that it was handled."

The heavily African-American 9th Ward wasn't a Republican stronghold, and McCain could count on having Louisiana in his column without currying the favor of the Crescent City's black voters. But as political observers noted at the time, McCain was using his visit to the Ninth Ward to speak to voters far beyond Louisiana. His trip to the Ninth Ward was part of a weeklong campaign swing that also included trips to African-American counties in Alabama and the impoverished region of Appalachia. McCain's outreach seemed aimed at drawing Democratic and independent voters into the Republican tent.

The idea of reaching beyond the party base seems lost today among many Republican and Democratic leaders, who appear intent on pandering to partisan core of their constituencies at the expense of the larger good.

McCain warned against that kind of zealotry, using the last months of his life to underscore the need for members of his beloved Senate to reclaim a sense of shared purpose.

McCain's appeal to pragmatism is worth heeding not only in Washington but in Louisiana, where the state's political culture has also become increasingly polarized along party lines. That gulf was evident this year during a protracted, exhausting and wasteful impasse at the Legislature concerning a shortfall in the state budget.

McCain died days before Louisiana residents marked the 13th anniversary of Katrina. McCain's hope that such a bungled response to a national tragedy would never be repeated is a sentiment people here obviously share.

McCain's visit to the 9th Ward carried special meaning because, like the people of Louisiana, the senator knew a thing or two about resilience. His valor in Vietnam, and his courage and tenacity during years as a prisoner of war, were a testament to his character.

That strength was amply demonstrated in McCain's final days as he faced his terminal illness with dignity and resolve.

He will be missed — here in Louisiana, and around the world.