Quick hits: Louisiana news briefs

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Congressman Graves touts U.S. House-passed water resources bill

The Water Resources Development Act of 2020 that just passed the U.S. House of Representatives contains language that creates a path for renegotiating the accrual of interest for a New Orleans-area hurricane protection system, Congressman Garret Graves says.

Renegotiating the agreements could help the state to commit savings to build flood protection and coastal restoration priorities. Some estimates indicate renegotiation could result in cost savings and investment worth $1 billion, Graves’ office says, noting that the congressman worked with other delegation members and Gov. John Bel Edwards on the language.

After Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana agreed to pay $1.1 billion for a system to protect five New Orleans-area parishes. Lawmakers were told last year the cost could rise as high as $3 billion even as the project remains incomplete and behind schedule.

Louisiana sets record for on-time high school graduates, though graduation rate slips

Louisiana’s class of 2019 recorded a record-high 42,650 on-time graduates, while the graduation rate slipped from 81.4 percent to 80.1 percent, the Louisiana Department of Education announced Wednesday.

The number of graduates earning early college credit and industry career credentials rose 9.7 percent from 24,841 students in 2018 to 27,260 in 2019, the department says. The 2019 class had 22,098 students meeting the academic standards to qualify for state TOPS scholarships, a 3.8 percent increase from the 21,280 students who were eligible in 2018.

“We are pleased to celebrate the coordinated efforts resulting in more Louisiana students earning a high school diploma than in previous years,” State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley said. “With the good news also comes concern, however, as the graduation rate for the cohort fell from the previous year.”

State education department receives $17 million federal grant

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced Wednesday more than $180 million in new grant funding will be awarded to 11 states that are “rethinking education to better serve students during the COVID-19 pandemic,” including $17 million for Louisiana.

Congress set aside 1 percent of the $30.75 billion allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for grants to states with the highest coronavirus burdens. Louisiana currently has more COVID-19 cases per capita than anywhere else in the country.

The program calls for “microgrants” to ensure families have access to the technology and services for remote learning; virtual learning and course access programs, so students can access a full range of subjects; or new “field-initiated models” for providing remote education, the U.S. Department of Education says.