Daily Report

This Morning's Headlines / Thu, June 07, 2012

Teachers union to file suit today against education acts

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers plans to file suit today to stop implementation of Act 1 and Act 2 of the just-ended session of the Legislature. Act 1 guts teacher tenure, shifts some authority from school boards to superintendents, and makes changes to teacher pay and evaluations. Act 2 redirects state funding to private schools through an expanded voucher program, among other changes. LFT representatives will announce the suits today at 11 a.m. at the 19th Judicial District courthouse in Baton Rouge. "The governor’s people trampled on the constitution, passing Act 1 and Act 2," says LFT spokesman Les Landon. "We don’t believe there’s any way these bills can withstand constitutional scrutiny." The state’s other major teachers union, the Louisiana Association of Educators, is holding a board meeting this weekend, attorney Brian Blackwell says, where they may also vote to challenge both acts. "Make no mistake; the lawsuit filed today is nothing more than the latest salvo in the special interests quixotic quest to preserve an educational system that is failing far too many children," says Aaron Baer, a spokesman for Gov. Bobby Jindal's office, in a prepared statement. —David Jacobs

La. prison system gets a hard look

The prison population of Louisiana has more than doubled to nearly 40,000 inmates in the past 20 years, according to the state Sentencing Commission, while the cost to taxpayers has tripled: roughly $670 million. Yet crime rates remain high, and improvements to public safety are marginal. Now Gov. Bobby Jindal and the Legislature have tasked the Sentencing Commission to conduct a review of the state's criminal statutes and make recommendations for improvements. The announcement comes less than a month after The Times-Picayune wrapped up its extensive series on the state's jail system, "Louisiana Incarcerated: How we built the world's prison capital," which can be read here. According to state law, the review of the prison system must include "existing sentencing provisions as to their uniformity, certainty, consistency, and adequacy," as well as issues that include prison capacity, probation and parole resources, judicial operations, and re-entry preparation programs, among others. The Sentencing Commission says it gathered data from 2011 through this year to produce a series of recommendations to improve public safety at a reduced cost.

Defense cuts to affect La. business

Like every state, Louisiana stands to lose millions in cutbacks to defense contracts in 2013 with "sequestration" on government spending, according to the Center for Security Policy. In 2012 President Barack Obama limited U.S. military capability to fighting one "regional conflict" and one "holding action" and approved a 9% cut to spending, slashing $487 billion from the budget. With the sequestration law, implemented in the Budget Control Act of 2011, up to 18% in cuts will occur between 2013 and 2021, mandating $500 billion in spending is dropped. In 2011 Louisiana had $2.4 billion in defense contracts; if the cuts had applied to that year, it would have meant more than $680 million less, respectively. East Baton Rouge Parish alone, which had $250 million in defense contracts last year, would have faced up to $67 million less in government spending. To see how the defense cuts would apply by parish, click here. To read how the breakdown of defense contracts impacts individual states, click here.

Report: SUNO grad rate worst in U.S.

Southern University at New Orleans has the worst graduation rate—4%—among universities in the nation, reports The Fiscal Times at msn.com. Among its 2,590 undergraduates, those who do leave with a four-year degree take about six years to do so, if they're hewing close to the national average, according to the report. SUNO was the target last year of a proposal to merge the campus with the University of New Orleans. The measure died in the Legislature after former House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, pulled it from consideration. Meanwhile, just 56% of college students nationally complete a four-year degree within six years, according to a 2011 Harvard Graduate School of Education study. The United States was last in the percentage of students completing college—behind even Slovakia—among 18 developed countries studied, according to the report. The data deemed students who transfer to other schools as dropouts, while including only four-year accredited universities, and excluded schools with a high percentage of part-time students. To read more, click here.

Baton Rouge ranks among brainiest cities

In a measuring of "brain performance," or cognitive capacity, of metro areas, Baton Rouge ranks 21st in the nation among the brainiest cities, according to software company Lumosity, which tracks online games and cognitive performance. The Atlantic writes that scores of 20 million game members—and 320 million individual game plays—have been kept by the company to offer a scorecard on thinking power and memory abilities, with mapping across the United States available by using IP geolocation software. Scores were recorded in the five key cognitive areas: memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving. The data cover 169 metros, and only those with 500 observations or more were included. Higher cognitive performances, The Atlantic writes, were associated with higher rates of innovation, greater concentrations of high-tech industry, and higher per capita incomes. To read more about the study, click here.

Today's poll question: Do you agree with the study published this month in The Atlantic that rates Baton Rouge as one of America's brainiest cities?

Staff sergeant puts veterans to work

Between the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Cuba-controlled territory is a perilous patch of earth called the Cactus Curtain. Spiked with a needle bed of Optunia cacti planted in 1961 to keep Cubans from defecting into U.S. custody, it is even deadlier as the second-largest minefield on the planet. In the summer of 1993, Joe Reagan checked into his first overseas assignment in Castro country three days after seeing A Few Good Men, the Aaron Sorkin-penned Jack Nicholson drama that defined Gitmo for a decade before the post-9/11 rebranding of black hoods and orange jumpsuits took hold. To read the full story by Editor Jeff Roedel in the current issue of 225 magazine, click here.

News roundup: Jindal's veep potential gains notice . . . Bowling championships nearing finale . . . Red Stick film fest a weekend highlight

Growing buzz: Mitt Romney's campaign sources are saying Gov. Bobby Jindal is rising as a possible pick for vice president, with Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist touting Jindal for the second-in-command in an opinion piece for Politico. Despite Jindal's weak performance with the Republican response to President Barack Obama's first speech to Congress on Feb. 24, 2009, Jindal has dusted off his national image and would be a boost to the presidential ticket with his conservative businessman figure, writes Ronald Kessler at newsmax.com. To read more, go here.

Strike! The 2012 United States Bowling Congress Open Championships is entering is final month of its near-record 151-day run at the Baton Rouge River Center. The event, which has drawn nearly 12,000 five-player teams, according to the USBC, caps off July 10. A television broadcast of the championships will be showcased live on BowlTV at 2:30 p.m. Friday. The feature includes bowlers Del Ballard Jr. and Team USA member Steve Smith.

Animation attractions: The Red Stick International Animation Film Festival is kicking off Friday night at the Manship Theatre with the Oscar-winning short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, according to The Daily Reveille. The film was produced by Shreveport's Moonbot Studios and features Mr. Lessmore getting blown away by a storm with his flying books. Also on Saturday, Cartoon-a-Palooza takes place at the Shaw Center for the Art's plaza from 3 to 6 p.m. The family-friendly event includes carnival games, face painting, balloon artists, caricature artists and more. Overall, the festival will show the animated videos of 23 finalists on Saturday, with four categories feting "Best of the Fest" winners with a $1,000 prize. To read more, go here.

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