Louisiana walks on fiscal cliff, Jindal flies, Morial guns, budget woes

louisiana capitol 2While much of the focus is on fiscal cliff, guns and even sometimes Christmas, how about some local Louisiana politics?

Below are press releases or other content from the following: 

Governor JIndal's email blast about his economic development wins; The fiscal cliff and the impact upon Louisiana; former New Orleans Mayor and current President and CEO of the Urban League, Marc Morial writes about gun control; The Louisiana budget; Louisiana education;  and more..

 Jindal's economic development wins

The last couple weeks have been chock full of major economic development wins for Louisiana.  

In Central Louisiana, we announced that UPS Midstream Services Inc. is investing more than $3.9 million to construct a new full-service machine facility.  As the Jena Times reported, the new facility will create 95 direct jobs, and over 100 indirect jobs, for a total of roughly 200 new jobs in Central Louisiana. 

In Northeast Louisiana, Drax Biomass International announced that the company is building a new wood pellet facility in Bastrop and a storage-and-shipping facility in Baton Rouge.  As NBC33 reported, the two projects will combine to create 63 new direct jobs, and an estimated 143 indirect jobs, for a total of more than 200 new jobs for Louisiana. 

LocalMed, a digital healthcare startup and homegrown Louisiana company, will create 52 new jobs in Baton Rouge.  As the Baton Rouge Advocate reported, LocalMed considered investing in Texas and Florida, but ultimately chose to stay in Louisiana. 

These announcements come on the heels of perhaps some of the biggest economic development news Louisiana has ever had. As part of a plan to convert natural gas to liquid fuels, Sasol is investing up to $21 billion in Southwest Louisiana. This project will create over 7,000 direct and indirect jobs. 

As the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported, this project will be the largest single manufacturing investment in the history of Louisiana and it also represents one of the largest foreign direct investment manufacturing projects in the history of the entire country. Not only that, but Sasol's investment is a huge step forward to help the United States become more energy independent. 

Despite a tough national economy, Sasol and many other companies are making significant investments in Louisiana because of our strong business climate and world-class workforce. These wins are great news for Louisiana, but we've got more work to do, and we will not rest until all of our sons and daughters can pursue their dreams here at home.

Genealogy Roadshow

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Clearly, fewer guns in America and none in the wrong hands must be part of the solution. We are pleased that on Sunday's "Meet the Press" Senator Dianne Feinstein pledged to introduce a gun control bill on the first day of the next Congress that would limit the sale, transfer and possession of assault weapons, along with high capacity magazines. She expects the President to offer his support for the law. We hope so. It's time to turn our tears into action.

Louisiana Budget

(from The Daily Dime)

The federal income-tax hike that’s expected in January when the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire will reduce Louisiana’s state tax revenue, since we are one of just three states that allow full deductibility of federal income taxes on state returns. Legislative Fiscal Office chief economist Greg Albrecht estimates the state would lose $260 million if all Bush-era tax cuts are allowed to expire. A more likely scenario is the $124 million loss that the state would incur if tax increases are limited to those earning more than $250,000 per year.

A Baton Rouge judge will rule today on the constitutionality of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of teacher tenure rules. The rule change makes tenure harder to achieve and ties it closer to student test scores. Several teachers unions have challenged the overhaul in court, saying the bill violates the constitution’s "single object" section – which states that bills cannot contain multiple provisions affecting more than one law.

The New York Times suggests that the gas-to-liquids technology at the heart of Sasol’s $14 billion project near Lake Charles (with $2 billion in state incentives) could be a risky bet. Skeptics say the process is only profitable when oil and gas prices are sharply out of whack. “The reason you see so few G.T.L. plants is the economics are challenged at best,” William M. Colton, Exxon Mobil’s vice president of corporate strategic planning, told reporters. “We do not see it being a relevant source of fuels over the next 20 years.”

After last week’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn., it’s worth revisiting a 2011 report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) that looks at what states spend on mental health. The report found that while mental health funding in Louisiana hasn’t been cut nearly as much as in other states in recent years, Louisiana had the 10th lowest per-capita funding at $71.80 – well below the national average of $122.90. Connecticut’s spending was above the national average at $197.62, but still well below the top spenders in Maine and the District of Columbia, which spent $345.97 and $388.83 per person, respectively, on mental health in 2009. 


Louisiana could collect up to $8.2 million annually through a sales tax on digital downloads, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The report notes that failing to tax digital purchases places a larger share of sales tax burden on low income households, reduces the competitiveness of small and local businesses, and causes the long-term erosion of the state’s sales tax base (as more products will be delivered over the Internet).

Louisiana Education

Today, State Superintendent of Education John White visited Morris Jeff Community School in the Recovery School District-New Orleans (RSD) to recognize schools in both the RSD and Orleans Parish School Board for their winning applications in the Department's Believe and Include grant initiative. A check in the amount of nearly $1.5 million dollars was presented to representatives of five consortiums as part of the Department's $4 million dollar grant program. The funding for the Believe and Include grant is made possible through the repurposing of existing federal funding for projects through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and returning the money to schools to spur innovation that will directly impact student achievement for students with special needs.


"If we are going to believe all children can learn, then we must also believe that students with special needs can achieve at higher levels," State Superintendent of Education John White said. "This initiative is about finding innovative ways to not only include our students with disabilities but to create better learning environments for them to achieve higher outcomes."


"We are extremely proud of our schools that have been tapped to receive the Believe and Include grant," said Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard. "We are excited that our educators have these additional funds to build upon their innovative methods that equip their students for the future."


The CAMS Consortium, which consists of partner schools Morris Jeff Community Schools, McDonogh City Park Academy, Andrew Wilson Charter School, and New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High, will receive $199,926 to help improve achievement for students with disabilities The partner schools will use blended learning programs that incorporate technology into the classroom, job-embedded professional development for staff, and regular program review by special education staff to achieve a fully inclusive environment. The results of the program at each school will be compared 4 times per year to determine which technology is most effective to increase student achievement.


"Morris Jeff Community School is very grateful to have been awarded a Believe and Include grant, along with its consortium member schools," said Patricia Perkins, Morris Jeff Community School Principal. "Working with our fellow schools in writing the grant was a rewarding and learning experience for us and we are excited to continue working together during the years to come.  For Morris Jeff specifically, the award will mean that more technology and pertinent software can be purchased for its students, and teachers can continue to be trained in the framework around how Universal Design for Learning impacts our inclusion model for all students with special needs."


The Algiers Charter School Association will receive $400,000 for its eight partner schools - Martin Behrman Charter Academy, Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy, William J. Fischer Accelerated Academy, McDonogh #32 Literacy Charter, Alice M. Harte Charter, Algiers Technology Academy, O. Perry Walker College and Career Prep High School, and Edna Karr Charter High School. The consortium plans to increase academic performance of students with disabilities and prepare them to thrive on the Common Core Standards by strengthening co-teaching in the inclusion setting; increasing access to technology and build basic skills; and embed real-world and hands-on programs inside and outside the regular school day. In addition, the use of supportive technology will be increased, and schools will provide additional time for children with disabilities to access programs.


The Choice Foundation will receive $150,000 for its three partner schools - Esperanza Charter School, Lafayette Academy, and McDonogh #42 Elementary Charter School. The Choice Foundation partner schools will provide multiple means for students to learn the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) by using various evidence-based technologies that afford equal access to math instruction and assessment thus providing the students opportunities to demonstrate knowledge while retaining the rigor and high expectations of the mathematics CCSS.


FirstLine Schools will receive $300,000 for full implementation of its Technology Assisted Personalized Learning Project at its six partner schools - Arthur Ashe Charter School, John Dibert Community School, Samuel J. Green Charter School, Langston Hughes Academy, Joseph S. Clark Preparatory High School, and NET Charter High School. The comprehensive personalized learning project is an innovative approach to addressing the needs of all students. The project aims to improve the achievement of students by integrating computer-assisted instruction and scheduled daily intervention classes. FirstLine believes computer-led instruction is particularly beneficial to special education and intervention students because it can adapt to teach specific skills on any level whenever the need appears and personalize the pace of learning for each student.


KIPP New Orleans Schools will receive $450,000 for its nine partner schools - KIPP Leadership Primary, KIPP Believe Primary, KIPP McDonogh 15 Primary, KIPP Central City Primary, KIPP New Orleans Leadership Academy, KIPP Believe College Prep, KIPP McDonogh 15 Middle, KIPP City Central Academy, and KIPP Renaissance High School. KIPP New Orleans is working to develop a horizontally and vertically aligned special education program designed so educators can leverage knowledge and understanding of precise student needs and gauge the effectiveness of particular intervention strategies. KIPP's special Education program is based on clear-cut, measureable objectives around the strategic and timely identification of student needs, implementation of high-quality, targeted interventions and support, continual development and monitoring toward student accomplishment and growth. The hope for KIPP is that this systematic, data-driven approach identifies the best special needs lessons from each of partner school, and can be applied to each school in the network.


In addition, Supt. White took the opportunity to celebrate student achievement with the administrators, faculty and students of New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School along with 25 other New Orleans area schools for achieving the Top Gains School designation for the 2011-2012 school year. With each school receiving a reward in the amount of $8,453 per school, Supt. White presented the schools with a check in the total amount of $219,800.10 for their role in increasing student achievement. Earning the designation are 16 RSD schools (13 charter schools and 3 direct-run), nine Orleans Parish School Board schools, and one Type 2 Charter School. Top Gains school, which are schools that improved their School Performance Score by or beyond a pre-determined growth target. They reward for earning this distinction can be used for educational purposes within the school.


"We applaud our schools that have been recognized with the prestigious Top Gains school designation," said Supt. Dobard. "The RSD is honored to be recognized and appreciates the State's validation that our transformation strategies for public schools in New Orleans are working."


"The Orleans Parish School Board is proud that over 80 percent of our charter schools achieved the distinction of a Top Gains School. Their continued success is a testament to the efforts of the school leaders, teachers and staff in advancing student performance," said Stan Smith, Interim Superintendent of the Orleans Parish School Board. "We will continue our efforts to ensure every single school in the Orleans Parish School system meets this bar on an annual basis, allowing multiple choices of quality schools for parents and students."


"Sci High's designation as a Top Gains School honors the focus, hard work, and achievement of our students, staff, and families," said Claire Jecklin, Co-Principal of New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School (Sci High). "Over the last four years, Sci High has gained 40 SPS points that represent our steady gains in student EOC scores, graduation rate, and student support services. As we take one step closer to being the most successful open enrollment high school in New Orleans, we are thrilled to have these funds to increase our average ACT scores and increase student access to high level instruction."


About Believe and Include

Sixteen districts or charter organizations, representing 85 schools, will benefit from grants as part of the Department's Believe and Include initiative to develop innovative programs that help students with disabilities achieve proficiency of the more rigorous Common Core State Standards.  Believe and Include represents an effort to drive achievement by empowering district leaders, school leaders, and special education teachers to pursue innovation in special education in our state.  For a complete listing of Believe and Include recipients, please click here.ar 440 schools in the state earned the Top Gains School designation. Top Gains Schools improved their School Performance Score by or beyond a pre-determined growth target, from 2 to 10 points, and will receive $8,453 each for educational purposes within the school. For a complete listing of 2011-2012 Top Gains Schools, please click here.

Media Sources

Metairie, Louisiana

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