Louisiana Legislature Takes Key Steps on Education and Opportunity, Squanders Chance for Budget Reform

Louisiana Legislature Takes Key Steps on Education and Opportunity, Squanders Chance for Budget Reform

The Louisiana legislature took some steps this legislative session that will help move our state forward. However, much more work must be done to truly transform our state into a land of opportunity and realize our full potential—including bold policies like universal school choice, fundamental tax reform, and creating jobs and opportunity for all.

The Pelican Institute thanks the legislature for its work in ensuring transparency in K-12 school spending and in elevating the importance of literacy and numeracy. Educating our children is key to our state’s future—both in ensuring the next generation has the skills to succeed, and in staying competitive with neighboring states, and indeed the world.

In particular, House Bill 462, sponsored by Representative Rick Edmonds, is critically important for Louisiana parents and all taxpayers who care about advancing education in their community. Louisiana spends the most per student in the Southeast for some of the lowest educational outcomes. Thanks to this new law, parents and all taxpayers can know how public schools are spending their tax dollars, allowing them to be fully informed, engaged in local decision-making, and hold local school leaders accountable for their children’s educational outcomes.

Louisiana legislators also passed important bills that set high expectations for students mastering foundational reading and math skills early on—and provided teachers with the training they need to help kids in these areas. However, the legislature missed an opportunity to expand parents’ access to more educational options. Every kid deserves a school that fits, and the Pelican Institute will not rest until every child in the state has the educational opportunities they need and deserve. We look forward to advancing similar legislation next year to give Louisiana families the educational freedom that several other states have recently made available to parents.

Importantly, the legislature passed a permanent repeal of the state’s punishing franchise tax.

It also made strides in improving how our state provides services to those who need assistance in overcoming obstacles to opportunity. Our taxpayers invest significant resources for federally funded social safety net programs, but a lack of coordination and transparency hampers our ability to make the most of those efforts.

The Pelican Institute thanks the legislature for passing HR 100 and HB 288, sponsored by Barbara Reich Freiberg, which make great strides toward conducting the state’s first comprehensive performance audit of these programs and ensures that there’s timely and transparent follow-up on all significant performance audit findings. Through these measures, Louisiana can better determine the extent of coordinated service delivery, efficiencies, and outcomes for Louisiana beneficiaries, leading to greater opportunities for those who need temporary support in getting a job and achieving self-sufficiency.

Unfortunately this session, Louisiana’s legislature continued on a well-worn path of budgetary status quo, foregoing an opportunity to fully embrace the principles of fiscal responsibility that are needed to propel our state toward a more prosperous future. By pushing Louisiana’s spending higher still—above the budget cap—the legislature was not able to deliver Louisianans the tax reform they desperately need and deserve, and they were not able to supply the Rainy Day fund with the reserves necessary to stabilize our state.

Outgoing elected officials will certainly talk in the days ahead about the legacy they’re leaving. Meanwhile, our state’s legacy is leaving as our children and grandchildren leave their homes for jobs and opportunity in other states. The Pelican Institute believes every Louisianan should have the opportunity to flourish. With good policy decisions—and a smarter budget that reforms taxes and saves money—Louisiana can turn the page and embrace a brighter future. But it requires all voters to engage their elected officials—and the Louisiana Candidate Questionnaire—and call for them to embrace a Comeback Agenda that moves our state forward through smart public policy.

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