WRKF News

“It’s horrible. It’s as bad as we’ve seen, for sure.”

Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, says the budget cuts looming ahead for Louisiana’s public colleges and universities are nothing short of brutal.

“We’re talking about three, four, five hundred million—they’re saying—in one year? That is an insurmountable obstacle for these schools.”

Erwin attended Monday’s meeting between governing board members for all of the state’s higher education systems, and some influential lawmakers. With the governor’s budget proposal due to be unveiled Friday, all are asking the same question: How bad will it be?

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The MRI machine in Dr. Owen Carmichael's lab blares as it scans a subject's brain.  Carmichael, Director of Biomedical Imaging at Pennington Research Center, studies those scans trying to understand how the brain ages.

Carmichael explains that "what you'll see on the MRI scan is the amount of brain tissue.  And all of that brain tissue is part of that electrical circuitry that makes it possible for you to think."  As we age, our brains tend to shrink.  And as that tissue goes away, the harder it becomes to think.

He describes the young brain as a grape that's just been pulled from the vine, while "the elderly brain looks more like a raisin, in that it's deflated and smaller in size.  And the person with Alzheimer's, that 'looking like a grape' goes even further, it's extremely shriveled up."

State lawmakers refused to approve part of the Jindal administration’s plan for balancing the current budget Friday, making it clear they’re fed up with sweeps of dedicated funds.

“Somebody, sooner or later, has got to stand up and say we’ve got to stop this,” Sen. Robert Adley of Benton remonstrated with the Joint Budget Committee and representatives of the Division of Administration.

Adley, a Republican, chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, and he took great issue with part of the budget-balancing plan to grab $6-million from gasoline taxes — which are dedicated to building and maintaining roads — and shuffle that money to State Police.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee meets today to vote on the governor’s plan for slicing $103-million from current year spending.

“These mid-year cuts are critical,” House Speaker Chuck Kleckley says of the painful necessity.


Brennan Center

Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

The Brennan Center for Justice recently put out a report on the effect of imprisonment on crime. Lauren-Brooke Eisen, one of the authors of the report, walks through some of the findings.


With so much current focus on the state budget, the term “statutory dedications” keeps coming up. What are they and why are they an issue? We turn to Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy for answers.

“We have about 370 special accounts into which money automatically flows, because the Legislature has dedicated it,” Kennedy says, by way of introduction.

 “I don’t want to subject my son to an environment of testing that I know has nothing to do with learning.”

So says James Kirylo, father of Antonio, a third-grader attending public school in Tangipahoa Parish. Kirylo is also a professor of education at Southeastern Louisiana University, and is one of dozens of parents around the state who are opting their children out of standardized testing this spring. Kirylo admits his reason is different than most.

Louisiana’s congressional delegation — most notably former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu — has fought for coastal restoration funding for years. And it’s just about to pay off big.

“In November of 2017, approximately $170-million is to be made available to the state — $140-million of which comes to the CPRA,” explains Kyle Graham, with Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. The source of the funds is a federal program known as GOMESA.

There were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson, a crime that occurred directly on top of the sidewalk of Piney Creek Road ... It was a crime impossible during daylight, when we neighborhood kids would have been tearing around in go-karts, coloring chalk figures on our driveways, or chasing snake down into storm gutters. But at night, the streets of Woodland Hills sat empty and quiet, except for the pleasure of frogs greeting the mosquitoes that rose in squadrons from the swamps behind our properties.

— That’s how “My Sunshine Away”, the debut novel from M.O. Walsh, begins.

It’s a suspense and a coming of age story set in an idyllic suburban neighborhood unsettled when a teenage girl — the narrator’s boyhood crush — is attacked.

Specifically, the novel is set in Baton Rouge. That’s where M.O. Walsh is from, but he now lives in New Orleans where he’s the director of the Creative Writing Workshop at UNO.


State officials have been burning up the phone lines between Baton Rouge and New York City this week, trying to stave off the threatened downgrade of Louisiana’s credit rating. State Treasurer John Kennedy says it’s been intense.

“We’re in trouble. I don’t want to overstate that, but I don’t want to sugarcoat it, either,” Kennedy says. “We’re in trouble with two of the three rating agencies. Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s have told us unless we get our fiscal affairs in order, they’re going to downgrade us.”


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