Day: October 12, 2011

The “Other” Tragedy in Public School Funding

  We’re all aware of the beating public education took this past legislative session. A total of $5.3 billion was cut, representing the first time Texas deliberately underfunded its schools. As a result, thousands of teachers lost their jobs and hundreds of innovative programs were ended. However, a less familiar, but equally unfortunate reality of our school finance system is how inequitably the reduced amount of money schools did receive was distributed. This problem is not the result of the most recent legislative session (though actions taken this time around did little to correct it), but has been built into our school finance system over decades of lawsuits, lobbying and legislation. Taxpayers across the state are not able to raise similar amounts of money for their schools at comparable tax rates. Property wealth varies wildly across the state, and while Texas does account for this to some extent through what’s commonly referred to as “recapture” or “Robin Hood”, other parts of the school finance system allow wealthy districts to generate tax revenue that is exempt from these provisions. This allows property-wealthy districts to take advantage of this disparity and charge lower taxes, yet receive more money per student. For example, this past school year, the bottom 10 percent of districts in terms of money received per student — $5,221, on average—had a high average property tax rate of $1.15....

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The Government Is Making Us Fat

  America is sick. And it’s not just the economy, or the perpetual state of war … it’s our health. The United States is the most obese country in the world, and the U.S. government is causing the problem. By prohibiting the cultivation of healthy foods in the America, allowing dangerous artificial sweeteners in our food, and putting endocrine inhibitors into our drinking water, the government has cultivated a culture of obesity. A whopping 67 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. That’s 93 million Americans who are obese and more than 9 million adolescents who are obese. What’s more, obesity disproportionately affects women, minorities and low-income families. In the United States, 73.7 percent of blacks are obese, 69.1 percent of Latinos, yet only 62.8 percent of whites are obese. Low-income families are at a substantially higher risk of developing obesity. Diabetes rates are growing rapidly, and it is projected that one in three children will develop Type 2 diabetes as adults. How will one-third of the adult workforce having a crippling disease affect the American economy? All of this fat is expensive. In 2000 obesity cost Americans $117 billion, and diabetes rates have doubled since then. With government-mandated healthcare in our very near future, we the working taxpayers will be stuck with the bills for these obese poverty-stricken citizens who can’t afford their own medicine. How can this crucial issue be fixed without a heavy-handed government mandating what we serve...

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From Schoolhouse to Courthouse

  Disrupting class used to land kids in the principal’s office or detention.  In Texas, however, more and more children are facing criminal prosecution, criminal records and hefty fines for acting out in school. It is estimated that at least 275,000 non-traffic tickets are issued to kids in Texas each year.  The vast majority of these tickets are commonly linked to minor school-related misbehavior.  Foul language, minor fights, missing school or disrupting class results in Class C misdemeanor tickets and a trip to court for thousands of Texas kids each year. The 1980s and 1990s saw a wave of "get tough on crime" laws and zero tolerance policies.  Fear of the juvenile predator resonated with families across the nation after incidents like Columbine, resulting in the outsourcing of school discipline where adult courts became the new detention hall. The increase of ticketing in schools coincides with a growth of school-based policing.  In fact, campus policing is the fastest growing area of law enforcement in the state.  Campus police officers, also known as School Resource Officers, are increasingly tasked with handling student misbehavior. Schools are funneling children to adult courts where they are not afforded several protections that they would receive in juvenile court.  In municipal court, there is no requirement for prosecutor review.  While poor kids are entitled to counsel in juvenile court, no similar entitlement exists in adult...

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We Don’t Have to Be the Big Bad Wolf

  Israel and Palestine. It’s an issue that many people refuse to touch with a 10-foot pole, dismissing it as a hopeless black hole of debate. Over the past 20 years, it seems the only thing the peace talks and diplomatic back-and-forth can achieve is the continuation of more peace talks … and this is perhaps the most important and enduring impact of the Middle East peace process. Whether in process, post-process or working towards a new process, its mere existence legitimizes the status quo of the situation, despite overwhelming international condemnation of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and a list of U.N. resolutions against Israeli policy almost as never-ending as the expansion of Israeli settlements. For many powerful actors, reinforcing the status quo seems like the safest solution. With such an unstable situation, any change is threatening. However, in this case, maintaining the status quo is not a lack of change. It means continued unlawful Israeli settlement into the lands of Palestine, the slow displacement and carving up of any would-be Palestinian land. This means that if the peace process crawls along at its current pace, in another 20 years, there would essentially be nothing left of which to create a Palestinian state. One of the more powerful voices in avoiding change is America, who struggles to maintain a balance between a relationship with Israel that takes the word ”alliance”...

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Quick Jump