Posts Tagged ‘report from louisiana’

Photo by 2y.kang on Unsplash

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – In shocking, absolutely SHOCKING news, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports that “Only 43% of kindergarten students read on grade level, 54% of first graders, 56% of second graders and 53% of third graders.”

(Insert sarcasm).

Seriously, who didn’t see that one coming?

After teaching ELA at the high school level for twenty-five years, I am not at all shocked by these numbers; in fact, I’m surprised they aren’t worse.

One of the main reasons I left the classroom when I did, rather than get my thirty years in, was because of the terrible Louisiana Believes ELA curriculum. When the program rolled out, I ranted and raved and went into fits of depression. There were tears shed over this curriculum at the time by gifted ELA teachers I worked with who knew this program was terrible yet were powerless to change anything. All reading for pleasure was removed from the curriculum. Most fiction was stripped out. And while I’m a nonfiction fan, the nonfiction pieces my 10th graders had to read were the dullest, driest, most soul crushing texts you can imagine.

I’m all for challenging a student. That wasn’t what was happening.

The word “rigor” became code for all we loathed about the reading materials. Teachers were expected to embrace the new “rigorous texts” and lead students through multiple, yes, multiple readings of them; and students were expected to read these eight page speeches or scientific articles multiple times while annotating, highlighting, examining, discussing, and writing.

No tenth grader I’ve ever met is going to get excited about reading Carrie Chapman Catt’s speech on women’s suffrage.

Teachers were given this curriculum and the accompanying prepared slides, and a script, and we were expected to follow it “with fidelity.”

Meanwhile, students mentally checked out.

When I tell you that there was ZERO fiction, I’m not kidding. And the ELA supervisor at the time told me that if kids want to read for pleasure, they will do it on their own.

That was about six years ago. Each year since then the curriculum has been loosened a bit, and a bit more each year. Teachers were given a little more flexibility but not much.

To combat the growing apathy toward English from my students, I brought in a classroom library and man was the excitement back in the classroom! Kids clamored for books they wanted to read.

But by then, my own future was sealed. I had to leave the classroom because I had lost faith in the program. Trust was broken. Teachers lost all voice, all input, all creativity and freedom over their classes. I could not in good conscience lead students through material that crushed their desire to read and learn; and for the record, the great test scores the admins were looking for never happened. They started to rise a bit once the bonds loosened, but this new curriculum did not solve the ills of literacy.

And, based on what I’m reading today, it still hasn’t.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Photo by Krzysztof Hepner on Unsplash

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – When I read an article about rising food costs and see something like “Milk is 13% more expensive than last spring, and beef prices are up 16% over last year,” those numbers are vague to me. They don’t process. I can look at 13% and 16% and know those are pretty good price jumps, but the impact of rising food prices is much more obvious when you look at individual items.

For example, one of the things we purchase is cat litter. Six months ago, we were paying $3.56 for a 5 lb. bag; now, the same bag is just over $5.  I sometimes purchase these little individual cups of Del Monte grapefruit for grab and go breakfast. Six months ago, it was right at $1 for one of these; now it’s $1.53. I guess that is still a low cost for breakfast, but it’s indicative of a much larger problem.

These rising prices are affecting everything you put in your shopping cart. A store manager recently told me that the rising costs stem from having to pay more for materials, for inks to print labels, to the higher cost of producing the product you are actually buying, and the transportation to get it to your store. Even labor shortages contribute to higher costs.

Part of the problem is all of that stimulus money which has to be reabsorbed back into the system; more money floating around means rising prices. Another factor is soaring fertilizer prices, the effects of which will continue to make food costs rise worldwide.

Bottom line is that even to a non-economist person like me, we can see that prices of literally everything we buy are soaring and there seems to be no end to it.

More than once lately I have wished for a big vegetable garden; sadly, I don’t have enough sun in my yard to even grow a tomato plant.

Because my husband is retired military, we have access to the commissary which has traditionally offered lower prices for many items, but now this is one area where shortages are quite evident, and shelves are bare. Prices seem to be about in line with prices everywhere else now. While there is still some savings to be had on certain items there, the bottom line is that comparison shopping is becoming an art form.

We have been watching sale flyers for the grocery stores and stocking up on shelf-stable items when we can. If coffee is on sale, we stock up. I find I’m buying fewer snack items (not a bad thing!) that before and I’m stretching leftovers and being more mindful about waste.

It makes me worry about the working poor – and maybe I’m in that group! – who don’t qualify for government assistance but who isn’t wealthy either. Between rising gas prices, rising food prices, and overall inflation, we will all be on tighter budgets for some time to come.

Clipping coupons has never been my thing; I either forget them or resent having to by a dozen of something just to save a quarter, but maybe I need to take another look!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Landry Anglin

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Less than twenty-four hours ago, a thirteen-year-old girl was at her grandparent’s home in an affluent neighborhood in Shreveport. She was texting with friends about the LEAP test at school today and perhaps thinking about Mother’s Day next week. She was likely looking forward to summer just a few weeks away and perhaps had plans for a family vacation.

This morning her parents are planning her funeral.

At some point yesterday afternoon, a group of thugs decided to have a rolling gun battle down one of the main thoroughfares of town, shooting hundreds of bullets as they raced through neighborhoods. Home security cameras captured the sounds and hopefully the cars.

One of the bullets hit Landry Anglin as she stood in her grandparent’s house. She did not survive.

I didn’t know this child, but it doesn’t matter; this kind of violence simply must stop. It is happening all over the country. Shreveport now has twenty-one homicides this year; for a city our size, that’s far above average and just one is too many. We have a shooting every single day in this city. Every. Day. Some survive; some don’t.

What is the answer to this violence?

There are a lot of opinions about that. Personally, I’m looking at the District Attorney’s office who can’t seem to keep these criminals in jail. People joke about our catch and release judicial system here, but it’s no joke. Last week five criminals walked out of the courtroom, walked away from murder charges, because the Soros-backed District Attorney couldn’t close the deal. “No bill,” the grand jury said.

The rap sheets for these people who get arrested are ridiculous; repeat offenders times ten. Charge after charge after charge. The charges are reduced, dropped, or not enough evidence to convict. This is happening all over the country where Soros proteges are in place:

Since at least 2015, Mr. Soros has plowed millions of dollars each election cycle to support progressive district attorneys across the country. All of his candidates support reducing the prison population and directing criminals to diversion/rehabilitation programs outside of the criminal justice system.

Mr. Soros’s political donations have largely propelled his candidates to victory – as there’s no major donor on the Republican side to counter his massive local cash infusions. For example, in 2015, Mr. Soros gave more than $930,000 to James Stewart, the current Caddo Parish District Attorney in Shreveport, Louisiana, a donation more than 22 times the local median household income. Republican candidates simply haven’t been able to compete.

And an innocent teenager loses her life.

Her classmates at the middle school are showing up for classes today, testing set aside for now, and teachers are trying to find answers for them. Her parents are planning her funeral and how will her grandparents ever get over this? Ever be able to walk through the room where their granddaughter fell to the floor?

The suspects are still at large.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Photo by Joel Arbaje on Unsplash

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – There is a bill in the Louisiana House of Representatives that would “allocate up to 25,000 acres of Louisiana offshore waters to be leased from the State by private, green energy companies to manufacture and build windmill turbines as an alternative to coal and natural gas production.”

Restrictions have kept lease limits to 5,000 acres which apparently is scaring wind farm investors away. Proponents of HB 165 say that the 25,000-acre limit greatly expands potential for investors to come in and build wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Wind turbines are huge structures. A single wind turbine requires a great deal of real estate, even in the Gulf.

Although most Gulf of Mexico wind energy projects will eventually be built in federal waters, HB 165 co-author Rep. Joseph Orgeron “says the exploratory pilot projects will be built in state waters closer to the coast. Louisiana’s less-populated coastline allows more development within the 3 nautical miles of state waters that extend from shore.”

Chris Alexander, an attorney and conservative activist in Baton Rouge writing for The Hayride calls HB 165 “a monstrosity.” Citing several red flags in the bill, he says:

It would allocate up to 25,000 acres of Louisiana offshore waters to be leased from the State by private, green energy companies to manufacture and build windmill turbines as an alternative to coal and natural gas production. The first red flag in the bill is that it removes all legislative oversight and places plenary authority in the State Mineral and Energy Board to award any lease if it deems, in its sole discretion, that the lease is in Louisiana’s best interest. Why would the bill vest this enormous power in any board while removing traditional legislative oversight and accountability? Any objective observer would necessarily be suspicious of such a provision.

The bill also removes the traditional requirement that a minimum dollar amount and minimum percentage of revenue to be produced be advertised by the board as a minimum requirement for granting the lease. No legislative oversight, and no requirement of minimal revenue creation. What could possibly go wrong here?

See his post for more.

My first thought when I read about this development was “what happens in a hurricane?” Apparently there is a plan for that in that the turbines “feather in” their blades and wait for the storm to pass. Uh, sure. There is even discussion of floating turbines that can be hauled in prior to a storm.

My second thought was about migratory birds. It is common knowledge that the Louisiana Gulf Coast is a critical stop for over half a million shorebirds from 28 species migrating back and forth each winter. With our wetlands already in danger and providing less and less territory for the birds to refuel, how many will also be lost to windmills?  Collateral damage, says Erik Johnson of the Audubon society:

There are worse threats to birds. House cats, for example, are blamed for killing about 2.4 billion birds each year. Automobiles knock out 200 million more, and pesticides poison at least 2.7 million birds each year in the U.S. “Wind energy will really be a drop in the bucket by comparison,” Johnson said.

My next thought was about the shrimpers and fishermen who have relied on the Gulf waters for generations to make a living.  Since the Cajuns began arriving in Louisiana in the late 1700s, they have been shrimping and fishing these waters to make a living. These are people devoted to the land, people who won’t leave it no matter the worst hurricane, people who survive and who have battled the elements and the oil companies and the diminishing coast just to keep their livelihood viable. And now these fishermen have to worry about wind farms:

But the Gulf is also the source of 70% of the country’s shrimp. Of the more than 200 million pounds of shrimp netted in the Gulf each year, much of it was caught in the waters off the Louisiana and Texas coasts. These prime fishing waters happen to overlap with the areas of the Gulf that have the greatest potential for wind energy development.

Between the transmission lines laying on the sea floor, the turbines destroying nets, and the narrow navigational paths between turbines, the fishermen are concerned.

The agency has promoted the idea that wind farms won’t be any worse for fishing than the 3,500 offshore oil and gas structures already in the Gulf, not to mention 27,000 miles of underwater pipelines, most of which are inactive or abandoned.

[Acy Cooper of the Louisiana Shrimp Association] agrees shrimpers are accustomed to the Gulf’s industrial obstacle courses, but it doesn’t mean they like it. The introduction of offshore wind infrastructure increases navigational challenges.

HB 165 was approved without objection in the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment last month and was moved on to the Senate where it will first be considered by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources before moving on to a full Senate vote.

In his Hayride piece, Chris Alexander offers a final parting shot against the bill:

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not make known another fact that the proponents of HB 165 would surely rather you not know:  Roughly 70% of the rare earth elements that are essential to the construction of wind turbines will be produced and harvested in China. How many Louisiana voters believe that we should become even more dependent on a foreign country for our energy needs, particularly a sworn adversary?

If the environmental concerns don’t bother you, further dependence on China should.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.