Jan. 16
American Press, Lake Charles, Louisiana, on contracts worthy of consideration:
When the Louisiana Legislature meets this year, it will likely have a chance to enact legislation that would direct some contracts for state services to Louisiana state colleges and universities at a time when they need a boost.
That sounds like a good idea and should be seriously considered.
State Treasurer John Kennedy is proposing the measure as a way to overcome concern about non-government organizations (NGOs) handling state contracts. This would also be a way of providing more money for cash-strapped colleges and universities.
“It would solve a problem for the state and help our universities at the same time,” Kennedy said.
Higher education leaders are backing the idea.
The issue came up at a recent meeting of the Board of Regents, where Chairman Clinton “Bubba” Rasberry said he would be in support of it. LSU leaders also have said the university would welcome an opportunity to tap into state contracts.
Kennedy, who is a critic of NGOs, has been a proponent of greater oversight of those groups.
He sees this proposal as a virtual win-win: giving more money to higher education while strengthening state services that often are federally funded social programs.
Strategy sessions have been held among system leaders and state officials, and the university systems’ boards already are bracing for a grim budget picture for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Kennedy said he’s been in talks with several legislators who support the idea, but he wasn’t ready to name a likely sponsor.
The state funnels millions through dozens of NGOs each year, often tucked into the capital outlay budget.
“The state spends tens of millions of dollars of mostly federal money — some of it’s state money, but a big chunk is federal money — with nongovernmental organizations to provide certain social services,” Kennedy said. “It’s taxpayer money.”
They take on several tasks, from after-school tutoring programs to job counseling.
“We’re ignoring some of the greatest assets and a great deal of expertise we have in our state,” Kennedy said. “If we spend $100 million on after-school tutoring, which we all agree is a good thing, we should be measuring the progress.”
NGOs long have faced criticism in Louisiana as serving as pet projects for some legislators. Kennedy has become the latest outspoken critic, raising concerns over their effectiveness.
He was careful to note that he doesn’t think all of them are questionable, but he said some of them are less clear about what work they do, and a lot of money goes to salaries rather than services.
This is a good idea and may aid our colleges and universities at a time they really need a boost.

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