PAR Recaps Its 62 Recommendations for State Development
PAR Recaps Its 62 Recommendations for State Development
Over the past six months, the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR) has issued a series of four white papers addressing issues facing the new administration and Legislature to be elected this fall. The papers focused on the economic development potential of reforms in higher education, elementary and secondary education, taxes and finance, and governmental ethics. “Some of the 62 separate recommendations offered in these papers will be very difficult to implement,” said PAR President Jim Brandt. “However, that does not diminish their importance to the state’s future development.”
The first white paper argued that higher education could become a primary driver in developing the state’s economy. However, the system would have to be restructured to more efficiently and effectively match education offerings with student preparedness, job opportunities and business needs. Developing a nationally competitive research university would be key to achieving economic impetus.
The system could be restructured by enforcing tougher admissions standards at the four-year institutions and altering the funding formula and incentives to ensure adequate funding at all levels of post-secondary education. Some shifting of enrollments from four-year schools to an expanded community college system would be required. But savings from restructuring alone would not be sufficient to fund the desired transformation.
A subsequent paper highlighted serious issues in public elementary and secondary education noting their relationship to the state’s economic development. The paper stressed maintaining the accountability program and taking steps to meet the lofty goals of the Federal No Child Left Behind Act—notably, a highly qualified teacher in every classroom by 2005 and every student proficient in reading and math by 2014.
The paper recommended a number of changes to improve the accountability program and the administration, management and funding of education in general. However, as in the case of higher education, the paper concludes that major desirable improvements, such as paying teachers at the southern average, providing pre-K education for all at-risk children or improving school facilities statewide, cannot be achieved with the existing level of funding. On a per student basis, Louisiana now falls $300 million short of funding education at the southern state average.
PAR’s white paper on state finance and taxation concludes that the state government is in need of a major overhaul, both in its functions and financing. A major effort will be required to redesign the delivery systems for basic services, eliminate unneeded programs, divest local responsibilities and improve productivity. The financial overhaul will include a revised tax system, expanded local fiscal capacity, an improved business tax environment and some alternative funding mechanisms.
The paper recommends a number of changes in budgeting practices and taxes at the state and local levels. It recognizes the importance to the state’s economic development of its higher education, public education and highway systems. The report also notes the unfortunate reality that, even after achieving all potential efficiencies, the annual funding in each of these areas would fall at least $200 million short of what is needed to make Louisiana truly competitive.
The paper suggests that the additional funding might be provided over time through savings in other programs, some shifting of responsibilities to the local level, expanding the property tax base by improving assessments and reducing exemptions, expanding local fiscal capacity, capturing taxes on internet and catalogue sales, increasing revenues due to economic growth, and, as a last resort, raising user revenues (i.e., tuition, road tolls, motor vehicle license fees).
The final paper in the series stresses the importance of image in making the state an attractive location for business. Louisiana has suffered from a tarnished image and the paper suggests a number of ways to help repair the damage. The recommendations would further strengthen the state’s ethics, lobbying, campaign finance and sunshine laws. New prohibitions and reporting requirements would reduce the appearance of favoritism, reveal potential conflicts of interest and help level the playing field for competing interests.
The concluding recommendations in the series call for a constitutional convention to undertake the first comprehensive review and revision of the document in three decades.
The following are the 62 recommendations made in the PAR’s four-part series of white papers:
No. 1 Gradually restructure the overall enrollment mix from 76%/24% (four-year institutions vs. two-year institutions) to 60%/40% (closer to the southern average).
No. 2 Constitutionally grant the Board of Regents the authority necessary to develop and enforce a comprehensive design for public post-secondary education.
No. 3 Develop a new master plan for higher education that responds to state needs, job trends and student demand; mandates admission standards that will ensure high rates of student success; drives accountability by articulating institution-specific goals; and establishes specific role, scope and mission statements for each institution.
No. 4 Include in the enrollment counts for the funding formula only students admitted according to the Master Plan’s admission standards framework.
No. 5 Return control of tuition rates to Louisiana’s higher education management boards, with the caveat that tuition increases shall require legislative approval once an institution achieves the average tuition levels of its Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) peer institutions.
No. 6 Refine the existing approach for developing institutional funding targets by better incorporating the cost differences of varying academic disciplines and course levels.
No. 7 Commit to making LSU nationally competitive over the span of a 15-year period, largely by providing total funding per student (state contribution plus tuition) comparable to the country’s leading public research universities.
ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION
No. 8 Maintain Louisiana’s commitment to fully fund programs designed to improve student performance in accordance with the federal No Child Left Behind Act and the state’s School and District Accountability System.
No. 9 Establish constitutional authority for the state to take direct control over chronically failing schools.
No. 10 Establish a limited private school voucher program to accommodate school choice for students in consistently failing schools for which there are no other public school alternatives.
No. 11 Develop recruitment strategies including a differential pay system and/or bonus program for more competitive or hard-to-fill areas, harder teaching assignments and less desirable teaching areas. Continue to expand recruitment efforts by the state’s teacher training programs and colleges of education.
No. 12 Create high quality and consistent placement, induction and mentoring programs for new teachers to improve teacher retention. Provide funding to support local school districts in offering these programs and eliminating practices that place novice rather than experienced teachers with the most challenging students.
No. 13 Base tenure awards on the attainment of minimum professional teaching standards within the first three to five years of employment. Require the revocation of tenure upon the revocation of teaching certification.
No. 14 Avoid across-the-board pay raises for teachers or support workers.
No. 15 Continue the work of the School Finance Commission to evaluate the Minimum Foundation Program and consider options to improve the formula for equity and adequacy in school funding.
No. 16 Base high school funding on student credit hours per semester and allow funding to follow students into alternative senior-year programs.
No. 17 Develop sound alternative paths such as advanced placement, dual enrollment in secondary schools and postsecondary institutions, rigorous structured work experiences and community service for credit toward high school graduation to ease the transition from high school to postsecondary education and the workforce.
No. 18 Give the district superintendent and school board complete control over decisions on how to provide student support services.
No. 19 Place the clear authority to hire, fire, promote, demote, transfer or suspend teachers under the district superintendent rather than the school board.
No. 20 Streamline the tenured employee dismissal process and require that an independent administrative law judge be used to hear appeals of tenure decisions.
STATE FINANCE AND TAXATION
No. 21 Streamline the sales tax law and prepare to tax internet and catalog sales.
No. 22 Exempt manufacturing machinery and equipment (MM&E) from the state sales tax.
No. 23 Keep the “Stelly Plan” changes intact and avoid dedicating the related revenue growth.
No. 24 Eliminate long-term debt from the franchise tax base.
No. 25 Periodically evaluate (sunset) existing tax credits and incentives to assure that they are effective.
No. 26 Give state agencies greater flexibility to levy true fees for services rendered.
No. 27 Assume state collection of local sales taxes, quit authorizing local taxes in excess of the 4% combined rate and provide the tax base uniformity required to tax internet and catalog sales.
No. 28 Allow parish governments, school boards and municipalities to piggyback the state income tax on individuals, with local voter approval.
No. 29 Require more frequent and accurate property reassessment and expand the property tax base.
No. 30 Evaluate all of the property tax exemptions and reconsider for reduction or elimination.
No. 31 Allow greater flexibility to make cuts in constitutionally protected spending.
No. 32 Allocate expenditures for education solely on the basis of funding formulas designed by the appropriate executive branch board to achieve equity and adequacy of funding.
No. 33 Develop meaningful performance indicators for all programs and agencies and use them in budget decision making.
No. 34 Use temporary taxes only to meet temporary exigencies.
No. 35 Overhaul the capital outlay budget process so that the budget includes only top priority state-level projects, which have had thorough feasibility studies and can reasonably be expected to be undertaken and funded during the fiscal year.
No. 36 Limit state aid to local capital outlay projects to serious emergencies and statewide programs and provide local governments with the mechanisms and capacity to fund their own projects.
OTHER FUNDING ISSUES
No. 37 Devise a state-aid formula based on local need, revenue ability and tax effort to replace existing subsidy programs.
No. 38 Terminate the experience accounts in the state retirement systems, fund any future cost-of-living increases up front by appropriation, stop further benefit liberalization and avoid further backloading of payments on the unfunded accrued liability.
No. 39 Conduct a thorough, comprehensive review of the state’s organizational structure and programs.
GOVERNMENTAL ETHICS AND CONSTITUTIONAL REVISION
No. 40 Prohibit legislators, their spouses and children or their businesses (in which they have substantial ownership) from contracting with the state or any political subdivision unless the contract is competitively bid.
No. 41 Prohibit legislators, their spouses and children or their businesses (in which they have substantial ownership) from engaging in any business relationship with a registered lobbyist.
No. 42 Prohibit legislators from soliciting or receiving campaign contributions during a period beginning 30 days before a legislative session and ending 15 days after adjournment.
No. 43 Prohibit a regulated business or the owner, director, officer, or key employee of a regulated business from making political contributions to elected officials directly responsible for regulating the business or limit to $500 any contributions made to candidates for, or those currently holding, elected offices with regulatory responsibility.
No. 44 Provide penalties for making campaign contributions through or in the name of another.
USE OF CAMPAIGN FUNDS
No. 45 Prohibit transfers of campaign funds from one candidate to another or among candidates’ political committees and prohibit the use of one politician’s excess campaign funds to support another candidate.
No. 46 Prohibit the use of contributions in a campaign for an office other than the one for which the contribution was made.
No. 47 Prohibit elected officials from creating or controlling political committees that make campaign contributions to other elected officials or candidates for other offices.
PERSONAL FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE
No. 48 Require full, annual, personal financial disclosure reports from all elected state officials, legislators and candidates for such positions.
GIFTS TO PUBLIC SERVANTS
No. 49 Prohibit legislators and other public servants from receiving anything of value from lobbyists or persons doing business with or regulated by the government.
No. 50 Extend the lobbying law to cover lobbying of the executive branch.
No. 51 Require lobbyists’ reports to include information regarding their compensation, the subject matter lobbied and itemized spending related to the subject matter lobbied.
No. 52 Require those who hire lobbyists to semi-annually report their total lobbying expenditures, names of the lobbyists hired, the amounts paid to the lobbyists and the subjects lobbied.
No. 53 Make the positions of commissioner of agriculture and commissioner of insurance appointive.
No. 54 Make the position of tax assessor appointive.
No. 55 Maintain the scope of authority and independence of the Office of Legislative Auditor.
No. 56 Give statutory authority to the Office of Inspector General.
No. 57 Create a corruption hotline in the Office of Attorney General.
CONTRACTS FOR SERVICES
No. 58 Require a competitive selection process for all professional, personal, consulting and social services contracts–a Request for Proposal (RFP) for contracts over $50,000 and a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) or RFP for contracts under $50,000.
SUNSHINE LAW EDUCATION AND ENFORCEMENT
No. 59 Expand sunshine law education efforts by the Office of Attorney General.
No. 60 Create a voluntary, non-binding mediation process for sunshine law disputes, preferably in the Office of Attorney General.
No. 61 Convene a constitutional convention to undertake a complete revision, review each article, consider comprehensive reforms (i.e., the tax structure) and produce a concise statement of basic law by removing statutory material and excess detail.
No. 62 Organize the constitutional convention with a majority of the membership composed of non-legislators elected by the voters from districts and the remaining members appointed to represent each of the three branches of state government.
For More Information Contact:
Jim Brandt – President
(225) 926-8414 ext. 21