Shreveport Shreveport is not a small town. There are over 200,000 who live in the city and once you look at the metropolitan area and the entire AR/LA/TX area there are a lot of people here. There is some manufacturing; there are casinos, a fair amount of warehousing along the I-20 corridor, and service industries that support all of this. Another one of these cities that are not in great shape, but also could be in a lot worse shape, if you know what I’m talking about.
Local 100 SEIU represents head start workers in a lot of places traditionally, and this is one. Back in 1998 the government began mandating timetables when head start teachers would all need to have some kind of degree, first at the 2-year associate level, and then at the 4-year level. This policy was designed to upgrade the educational value to lower income children from the Head Start offering. We have been able to negotiate educational support for time off and tuition at various levels to help workers achieves these benchmarks, and this has also been consistent with federal funding and support. Reality has often intruded over the last decade and the mandates have moved with the reality so that we are still trying to reach the 4-year requirements.
The problem is hard to solve here, and it is interesting to see why. The associate degrees achieved by many of our members are from Southern University at Shreveport. The problem is that these credits are recognized almost nowhere it now turns out, even at the main campus of Southern University in Baton Rouge. The closest 4-year college that most of our people find is Wiley College in Marshall, TX, which is another hour to the west. Wiley is the historic black college about to get a lot of publicity as the movie with Denzel Washington is released about the historic debate victory there 50 years ago. In reality this school is on life support and hardly holding on. Even on-line offerings, if they can be worked out with Southern or Wiley would cost between $1500 and $2500 a semester, and this is way more than most workers can get reimbursed by the agency.
Because there is not one single Louisiana accreditation board for state colleges and universities, the problem of non-transferability exists. In this state like others we are still fighting the wars of whether to go VHS or Beta! But even past that problem, one forgets that as much as we might read about Harvard cutting tuition costs down to no more than 10% of family income (and actually using their endowment for something besides more investments, there are still lots of Shreveport’s out there that really do not have accessible and affordable educational options for training and advancing low and moderate income working families educational ambitions and career aspirations. Frankly, I was surprised to stumble on this problem, but thinking about it, I’m not sure that it is as unique as I might have imagined.