Wednesday, 22 February 2012 10:01
Pinsonat: Scoring Jindal on state retirement-pension, education reforms
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Jindal-GE-talkMore of a continuing Bayoubuzz interview with pollster and political analyst Bernie Pinsonat in a continuing series of "Bernie Burns":


It has been reported that Governor Bobby Jindal is asking for government employees to pay more for their retirement pension but the money is going to go into the general fund rather than paying off the state debt which is now around 20 billion dollars.  Last year, the Governor attempted to force the government employees to pay a greater share but House Speaker Jim Tucker deemed the legislation to be a tax which doomed the Governor’s plan.  What is going on here and does the Governor have a better chance this year of passing the legislation now that he has a much more favorable legislature many of them with whom he endorsed?

 I would be surprised if this passes the House of Representatives. How is this 3% increase from state employees not a tax if the revenue is collected into the general fund?  Besides, not using this revenue to pay down the enormous retirement system debt makes no sense. Increasing the retirement age for current state employees from age 50 to 67 is another head scratcher. Governor Jindal is certainly on tract to be the most unpopular governor ever with state employees. You do not need a poll to gauge this sentiment. If you know a state employee, believe me, they are not bashful about dog-cussing Governor Jindal! Most state employees do not make the big salaries- they are bearing the brunt of job cuts, they are the most negatively affected by the increase in retirement age and now a 3% increase in contributions to their retirement system (plus health care increases). The $90K to the $350K state employee’s jobs are not being cut (fat chance the boss in a state agency will cut his job), and they can afford the 3%. These are not a good times for most of our state employees and their families.

What part of the Governor’s education plan do you believe has the best chance of succeeding in the legislature this year and what part do you believe has the greatest chance of failing this session?  Why?

Governor Jindal should be able to enact some type of reform that puts teachers on a timeframe related to the performance of their students. A teacher would have two to three years to improve student performance in their classroom or lose his or her job. I do think we have teachers who need a kick in the pants to push kids to perform better. Will this make a big difference in the inner city schools that are failing year after year? No, this will not help! If you took the teachers from University High in Baton Rouge and put them in these schools to teach – well for one, the culture shock would do in most and I seriously doubt they would last a month! The public schools that are doing well in Louisiana have students who know this about their parents – failing to graduate from high school is not an option! I hear this from businessmen all the time – it is much cheaper to educate these kids because it is so expensive to incarcerate them!  REALLY! By the time these kids are teenagers, they are making money selling drugs. Attending class and graduating from high school is not getting the $200 pair of Nike’s they just gotta have! As long as drugs are easy to buy and sell and are profitable, our prisons will continue to house thousands and thousands on these high school age kids. We can pass a thousand pieces of education reform legislation and it will do some good – but parental supervision and involvement cannot be replaced by a teacher or government. Teachers in inner city schools ought to be paid a 50% bonus for what they endure each and every day!  Ask any policeman or sheriff’s deputy what they see in these schools. They make lots of trips to these schools! Some are even stationed there!

I do not think you will see huge state spending on vouchers. Tax payers in Louisiana do not want their dollars going to students in failing schools and thus allowing them to pour into their private or parochial schools. After all, they are paying a fortune to get their children away from the public schools environment. Their doors are not open and no welcome mat is out! It is a great concept and sounds good to reformers– but the vast majority of tax payers believe taking money away from the public school system will destroy public education and are opposed. Vouchers are a tough sell in Louisiana with the numerous private and parochial schools out there! Charter schools are very popular and most tax payers see this concept as the best way to improve public education with good old fashion competition.

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Bernie Pinsonat

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