Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Louisiana is finally getting creative with people who welsh on their obligations to their children. In another savvy move, the state is ensuring deadbeats pay their back child support before they get a dime of BP disaster money, according to a report this week in The Advocate. Louisiana residents owe a staggering $1.2 billion in outstanding child support payments, and the state Department of Children and Family Services, in coordination with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, is comparing those who file claims with BP to the list of those who are behind on court-ordered child support. More than 9,000 people owing about $101 million have been identified thus far. To date, the effort has intercepted $5.5 million — a drop in the proverbial bucket but a start nonetheless. Also in the queue: The Department is gearing up to begin skimming child support obligations from casino winnings.

There’s no question that LSU is great at recruiting the top athletic talent in the country, but recruiting the top faculty could get tougher. The American Association of University Professors, in a blistering 30-page report issued Monday, stops short of placing LSU on its Censure List, but says it reserves the right to do so — tantamount to a black eye in academic circles that could make it difficult to recruit and retain faculty in the future, according to The Associated Press. The AAUP is a 50,000-member organization devoted to protecting academic freedom. The LSU report focuses on the firing in 2009 of coastal researcher Ivor van Heerdon, an outspoken post-Katrina critic of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who has a federal suit pending against the university; and the 2010 ouster of biology professor Dominique Homberger, who was yanked from the classroom mid-semester amid student complaints that her grading and policies were too severe. LSU had no comment on van Heerdon’s lawsuit, but the university’s Faculty Senate president tells The Advocate the issue is “more about the ‘systemic problems’ of higher education budget-cutting issues in Louisiana, and the pressures to increase graduation rates, which are part of the calculation for how much funding a university receives.”

OK, we took some heat from readers this week for questioning why some prominent companies in Lafayette are partnering with District 3 Councilman Brandon Shelvin for an “equipping our kids to learn, back to school rally” in light of Shelvin’s ongoing financial and ethics issues. Just to make sure we weren’t speaking out of turn, we contacted Kathleen Allen, chief administrator of the Louisiana Ethics Administration, to see if Shelvin had caught up on the $1,900 (of a $2,000) fine he owes Ethics for a campaign reporting violation tied to his 2007 run for office. Turns out he hasn’t. Shelvin is a case study in why the Legislature this year overwhelmingly approved a bill that requires candidates for public office to pay their ethics fines before qualifying to run. Previously, as was the case with the District 3 councilman, a candidate only had to enter into a payment plan before qualifying. Now the fine has to be paid in full before qualifying. We applaud efforts to help disadvantaged children get the supplies they need to start the school year. But we can’t help thinking that in Shelvin’s case, this is less about the children and more about the District 3 councilman’s re-election and public relations campaigns.

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