More than 6K applications submitted so far for school vouchers
With one week left for Louisiana parents to submit an application for their children to partake in the new Louisiana Scholarship Program, the state Department of Education reports it has already received more than 6,000 applications—and schools are continuing to enter received applications into the online application system. That means some of the applicants will be disappointed, as the LDOE has previously said there will be available approximately 5,150 new taxpayer-funded voucher slots to attend private schools. "While 6,000 applications is more than we expected [to have] at this time, that number will continue to rise as schools continue to enter online the applications that they have already received from parents," says Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White. The LDOE says it's conducting a final review of schools and is working quickly to finalize regulations regarding school eligibility for the program. Once these regulations have been established, the department will work with schools to establish the number of seats they may offer before the voucher lottery is conducted in July. Applications and complete qualifying guidelines are available here as well as at all participating schools, a list of which you can find here. Meanwhile, the Louisiana Association of Educators today has filed a lawsuit challenging the voucher program. In doing so, the LAE is following another union, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which filed two lawsuits earlier this month against education programs approved in the recent legislative session. Read the full story on the suits here.
'225': You dog, you
In January 2011 225 told the story of one of the most revered, innovative dog trainers in Louisiana—and, arguably, the nation. Now a local filmmaker with hundreds of hours of footage is close to rolling out Dog Man: The Dick Russell Story, a feature-length documentary on the Baton Rouge trainer who died of complications from cancer last year. "I first met him, and he was in his overalls, stomping and speaking to these dogs, and I thought, 'Unbelievable! Who else in their 70s would be on their hands and knees on concrete for someone else's pets? I have to tell his story,' " says award-winning commercial director Richie Adams. Dog Man traces Russell's unique methods, his selfless love of animals and their owners, and the lasting impact he had on both local families and dog training nationwide. Beyond key partnerships with Petz Plaza, Raising Cane's and Zoes Kitchen, Dog Man has been Adams' self-funded passion project. In April he launched a Kickstarter campaign to help finish the film with a budget for more editing time, music licensing, and cross-country travel for interviews with those whom Russell inspired. The Kickstarter effort ends this month, and Adams hopes to finish the picture for a Baton Rouge premiere this fall. "I just want the film to do justice to a great man," Adams says. Learn more about the movie at its website here; and read more stories from the current issue of 225 here.
Jindal appoints B.R. businessman to Superdome Commission
Gregg Patterson of Baton Rouge has been named to a seat on the Louisiana Superdome Commission by Gov. Bobby Jindal, The Times-Picayune reports. The board, formally known as the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District, oversees the Mercedes-Benz Superdome; the nearby arena, home of the New Orleans Hornets; the Alario Center near Westwego; the Saints training facility on Airline Drive; Zephyr Stadium, located next door to the Saints training facility; and the TPC-Louisiana golf course. Patterson is president of G.A.S. Investments and former pitcher for the LSU baseball team. He replaces Mike Polito, president of Baton Rouge-based MAPP Construction. Patterson will not draw a salary as a commission member and will serve at the pleasure of the governor for four years, a Jindal spokesman says. You can learn more about the commission and its members here.
NFLPA asks NFL to restart Saints bounty investigation
NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is asking the NFL to restart from scratch its investigation into the alleged New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah confirms. Though Atallah says the NFLPA would not comment on the matter, Pro Football Talk has obtained the letter the NFLPA sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and has posted it online here. The letter calls the investigation "unprofessional, unsubstantiated and incomplete." In it, Smith also points to witnesses who have "clearly and publicly stated that the NFL grossly mischaracterized the information they provided to NFL investigators and knowingly misrepresented the facts surrounding this investigation." The letter concludes with the request for a new investigation. "I ask that you order that the investigation of this matter be redone thoroughly and transparently, and if the full and complete information shows that none of the accused players participated in a 'pay to injure' scheme, the NFL publicly issue such written findings," Smith writes.
Former Tiger golf standout Runion returning to LSU
LSU men's golf head coach Chuck Winstead announced today that former Tiger standout Garrett Runion has returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach. Runion joins Winstead's staff following the departure of seven-year assistant coach Shane Warren, who is now pursuing a career opportunity in the private sector in Baton Rouge. Runion returns to LSU following a 2011-12 season in which he led Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to its first NCAA Division II crown in men's golf with a dominating 5-0 win over Chico State in the national championship match in May. Runion was awarded the 2012 Dave Williams Award as the NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year, and was also named the Sunshine State Conference Coach of the Year for 2011-12. A native of Orlando, Fla., Runion was a two-year letter-winner during his collegiate career with the Tigers, which ran for four seasons, from 2003 to 2008. "It's an honor and a privilege for me to come back to my alma mater and rejoin this great program Chuck continues to build at LSU," Runion says. "I'm excited for the opportunity to help LSU develop the kind of championship program we expect on and off the course." Read the full story from LSUsports.net here.
U.S. biodiesel production soars, but crude is still king
Biodiesel production in the United States has surged so far in 2012, just two years after a collapse in which 52 of the nation's 170 biodiesel plants were idled. But as The Los Angeles Times reports, the fuel still has many miles to go before it becomes a significant addition to the nation's energy needs, according to Energy Department statistics. During the first quarter of 2012, which are the most recent statistics available, 241 million gallons of biodiesel were produced, the Energy Department reports. That was a 78.5% increase over the same three months in 2011, and a whopping 169% increase over the same period in 2010—the year the industry was rocked by the temporary loss of federal tax credits. But biodiesel still represents a relative drop in the bucket of the nation's immense thirst for liquid fuel. The total of 92 million gallons of biodiesel produced in March—the best month in 2012 on record—appears miniscule next to the 4.9 billion gallons of crude oil–derived diesel and heating oil the U.S. consumed in March, according to Energy Department figures. The nation also consumed 11.2 billion gallons of gasoline in March. Total petroleum consumption in March in the United States was 23.6 billion gallons.
News roundup: Workshop in B.R. Saturday to focus on contractor fraud prevention … Weekly and annual La. oil, gas rig counts down … Acadiana lawmakers say Jindal veto harms CODOFIL
Forearmed: The National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud is conducting a free workshop titled "Protecting Yourself from Home Repair Contractor Fraud and Scams" at the Louisiana State Museum, 660 N. Fourth St., from noon to 1:30 p.m. Saturday. "It's so frustrating to get calls from area homeowners who have already been scammed. It breaks my heart because by then, often, it's too late. What we talk about in our workshops would have helped every single one of them," says NCPHIF Executive Director Phae Howard. Complete details and registration are available here.
All 7 and we'll watch them fall: The number of rigs actively exploring for oil and natural gas in Louisiana dipped this week to 120, down from 127 a week ago. Houston-based oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. also reports today the number of rigs across the United States is down this week by five, to 1,966. Compared to the same week a year ago, Louisiana has 48 fewer rigs. The national count is up 84 rigs on the year. The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981 and bottomed out at 488 in 1999. You can access the complete report from Baker Hughes at its website here.
Pardon my French: Democratic Acadiana lawmakers including state Reps. Jack Montoucet, Vincent Pierre and Stephen Ortego say one of Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget vetoes harms a Lafayette-based agency that promotes French language and culture. Jindal stripped $100,000 planned for the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, or CODOFIL, which oversees programs designed to nurture the French language and promote cultural and business ties with French-speaking countries. The lost funding cuts more than a third of the annual operating budget for CODOFIL, which will seek private donations to try to fill the gap. Jindal wrote in his veto message that CODOFIL was "adequately funded." His office has thus far declined further comment.