Editorial: State budget cuts claim another victim

State-mandated budget cuts have claimed another victim.

This time LSU’s participation in a highly successful statewide truancy program for at-risk students faces elimination after

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration cut $331,000, or about 12 percent, from the program’s budget.

The Truancy Assessment and Service

Center was established 16 years ago by the state Legislature to identify

and prevent kindergarten

through fifth-grade students from dropping out of school and

resorting to crime. It has also been adopted in many high schools

around the state.

According to LSU statistics, TASC

has helped nearly 82,000 students in about half the parishes in the

state. LSU’s duty in

the program was to compile records on reasons for truancy,

evaluate program sites and student progress and create a database

for follow-ups for students served by the program.

Domoine Rutledge, a lawyer for the

East Baton Rouge Parish School System, told The Advocate of Baton Rouge

that LSU’s research

provided valuable information. It found that 73 percent of TASC

children showed a reduction in the percentage of days missed,

that the average TASC student showed a reduction from 7.1 missed

school days to 4.9 missed school days after TASC intervention

and that less than 2 percent of TASC children were eventually

referred to court.

Cecile Guin, director of LSU’s Office of Social Service Research and Development, said LSU-compiled data helped make the case

to state lawmakers for continued funding for the program.

Kristy Nichols, commissioner of administration for the governor, said the $331,000 cut represented savings and efficiencies

and emphasized that funding for centers will continue.

That’s welcomed news for a program that has obviously generated positive results.

Mid-year budget cuts brought on, in part, because of unrealistic revenue projections got the Jindal administration in its

present predicament and it’s having to make tough, unpopular decisions. Whether LSU’s input on the program was a necessity

or a luxury is open for debate.

Here’s the question in this case: who in the future is going to collect the data to determine whether the TASC is continuing to serve its mission?

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney,

Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.