The group and its supporters bemoaned the fact that Jindal, given broad instructions by the Legislature, to cut $15 million out of the operating budget for next fiscal year using his own discretion, lopped off from it $100,000 from what had been a budgeted $257,000, an almost 40 percent slicing. Making the leaving of the overgrown toddler, now at the ripe old age of 44, hungry for more mother’s milk was the abrupt separation on this occasion, with the Jindal Administration not giving it any prior notice.
But this long history created extreme separation anxiety with the head of its board of directors William Arceneaux declaring that its response in the future would be to “to go back to the Legislature and fight for those programs.” He clearly doesn’t get it – is it really the responsibility of the Louisiana taxpayer to duplicate services offered by the Department of Education in French language education and the agency of which it’s part, the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism? Should citizens really have to pay more so a few thousand students get some additional instruction in French, and tens of thousands of more some very slight additional exposure to the language? It might be kick for some involved, but what real value does it bring to the state as a whole?
One claim to this value, its executive director Joseph Dunn makes, notes that those in the immersion classes “typically perform 10 percent better than children in monolingual environments,” regardless of socioeconomic status. Assuming he uses “better than” to mean “better than in regards to school performance in general,” one suspects he needs to do an actual real and valid evaluation of the program. Chances are that result comes from the inherent self-selective nature of the program: those participating in it take it in part because they are more motivated to learn, making them better students. They aren’t outperforming others because the program “causes” them to do so, but because their natural desire to learn causes them to perform better, one reflection of this desire being willingness to enter the immersion program.
Consistent with others in his department that remonstrate wildly with little logic about the benefits of tourism, Dunn ups the ante when he appears to assert that his agency’s tourism outreach efforts sucked in $26 million a year to the state from French-speaking tourists. This puts the oft-quoted but entirely illogical figure of every dollar spent on tourism brings back $17 to absolute shame, for here Dunn implies the return is more like $100 back for every one spent. Had Louisiana’s budgeters a month back dumped only about $58 million into the agency, the amount of tourist spending it would generate captured by the state’s sales tax with this multiplier would have erased the prior projected deficit. How stupid of Jindal and the Legislature to miss this opportunity! Less sarcastically and more realistically, does anybody seriously believe that hyperbole?
In truth, there’s no real way to justify the program’s existence monetarily, only aesthetically. But that’s something that with other pressing needs of the state takes a great deal of justification. No, that shouldn’t mean one or two severely disabled persons shouldn’t go without a New Opportunities Waiver slot for the amount cut. At the same time, maybe as peripheral to the needs of the state’s people as CODIFIL is, it still would be a wiser use of the people’s resources than paying a has-been politician in his new state job nearly twice what his bureaucrat predecessor made.
Regardless, the time has come for CODOFIL to stand on its own. Already it gets assistance from outside sources and Arceneaux has spoken of increased fundraising efforts. However, that transition won’t happen if some purveyors of Louisiana’s populist past have their way, such as the self-contradicting state Rep. Stephen Ortego, the recent author of a law that made French the “official working language” of CODOFIL who in one breath proclaims there is a resurgence of interest in French in the state, but in the next claims the funding cut puts the brakes on it and therefore government funding for it should be increased, hinting that the state could do so by reducing tax breaks that stimulate business activity.
Well, if there’s greater interest in all things French in Louisiana, then this would be reflected in a fertile fundraising environment entirely unrelated to government budgetary decisions. How is this in any way dependent on government spending in this area – unless Ortego takes the discredited and asinine view that government drives not just economic but cultural development?
Such silliness would not be surprising given the implications of his remark on the subject that “people receiving services from CODOFIL, they're taxpayers and they're expecting these kinds of services. They're not expecting their tax money to be given out to private companies.” In other words, the fool equates government confiscating the people’s monies always as good because they “expect” duplication of services and performance of nonessential ones, while citizens are disserved by attempting to create a favorable business climate already polluted with government over-regulation and over-taxation by leaving more of their money in their own hands. And voters actually elected this guy?
Hopefully more mature heads will prevail and the weaning of CODOFIL, and other state programs with as little demonstrated need for their existence and returns, will continue in upcoming state budgeting. These activities may make for nice cultural flourishes that certain people desire and who are generous enough with their own resources to share that with others. But they do not have a legitimate claim on the resources of those who do not value them the same way when much more pressing matters in government exist in fact, and the bias that people ought to keep what they earn exists in our governing ethos.
by Jeffrey Sadow, Ph. D.