Its “déjà vu all over again,” as Yogi Berra once said. Just as 2016 began with a special Louisiana Legislative Session; 2017 is beginning the same way. Our legislature is trying to figure out how to fill a $300 million deficit.

No one could have predicted the impact of the March floods in North Louisiana followed by the August floods in South Louisiana, causing billions of dollars in damages and revenue loses. Northeast Louisiana has not totally recovered from the flood as repairs are still in progress. The intensity of the 20+ inches of rain in Northeast Louisiana caused property losses, which were not covered by flood insurance. These out-of-pocket repairs helped the local contractors and supply houses, but hurt the financial stability of many small businesses and home owners who have had to tighten their belts yet again in the face of unexpected losses. The agricultural community was also hit hard with additional cost of replanting crops and reduced yields due to late planting resulting in revenue losses of nearly $100 million in North Louisiana.

Back to the Legislative Special Session of 2017, what will they do to solve the $300 million deficit? The one area widely discussed includes education. While there is room for adjustments in the education budget, however, it seems very short-sighted to make broad-brush across-the-board cuts. More precise analysis is needed to assure our students are getting the most out of money invested in education.

The education system has seen some positive changes during the past few years as high schools recognize that not all students are college material; therefore, introducing an Agriculture and Arts curriculum. The education system also recognized that many students have ambitions and desires which exceed the typical high school curriculum. Many schools have created the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs, which prepare the students for the highly technical college courses. Centurylink, the third largest communication company, headquarter right here in Monroe has a need for these type technology skilled employees and has endorsed and committed to support STEM training programs in Ouachita Parish and Monroe City Schools with hopes of hiring these students upon completion of their college degree programs.

The best way to restore the economy in the area is to provide good-paying jobs. Let’s build an education wall around the state. Slashing the education budget is counter-productive and will likely run many of our brightest and best students out of state   

AJ Burns

West Monroe, LA