Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Texas 48th In Children’s Health—I’m Certain Governor Perry Can Get Us To Bottom Of List Soon Enough

Texas is 48th overall in the overall condition of the health of children.

From Texas State Representative Garnet Coleman—

“The Commonwealth Fund today released the State Scorecard on Child Health System Performance, 2011 which ranks states and the District of Columbia’s performance on children’s health care. Overall, Texas ranks 48th. The report examines access and affordability, prevention and treatment, potential to lead healthy lives, and equity of the child health care system. Broken down, Texas ranks 50th in access and affordability, 48th in prevention and treatment, 29th in the potential to lead healthy lives, and 50th in equity. Additionally, 18 percent of Texas children are uninsured compared to 10 percent nationally.”

Here is a link to the report.

Is the poor health of many children in Texas one of the number of  “emergency”  legislative issues as declared by Governor Rick Perry?

No.

Governor Perry and the Republican majorities in the Texas State Legislature lack the simple decency to place the welfare of children at the top of the legislative agenda.

And where are rank-and-file Republicans in Texas on these questions?

Read here to see what Governor Perry and the Republican majorities in the legislature see as emergency issues.  Not one thing on the table in this respect is a true emergency.

Our State of Texas is run by people who are morally sick. They will let young people be sick and die and never say a word even though they could help address what is taking place.

Texas is 48th in the overall health of children.

Don’t worry though–I’m certain our Governor and our legislature can work as a team to get us to the bottom of this list by the end of the current legislative session.

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February 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

How Come I’m Willing To Pay Taxes For Schools, Even Though I Don’t Have Kids, While Many Parents Vote Against School Taxes?

How come I’m willing to pay whatever taxes are required for good schools–even though I don’t have kids–while many people who have had kids vote against school bond issues and bitch about any tax increase?

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Four Day School Week/Could Our Kids Be Any More Ignorant?

The Wall Street Journal reports that some school districts are considering a four day school week.

From the article—

“In North Branch, Minn., school Superintendent Deb Henton said her 3,500-student district, facing a $1.3 million deficit, is simply out of options..”We’ve repeatedly asked our residents to pay higher taxes, cut some of our staff, and we may even close one of our schools,” she said. “What else can you really do?” Despite a “lot of opposition” from parents, she said, the district is set to adopt a four-day week for next school year…A new law in Georgia allows schools a choice between a 180-day school year “or the equivalent.” Hawaii officials last October introduced 17 mandatory “Furlough Fridays” for state public schools. In Minnesota and Iowa, districts are drafting proposals for their state boards of education in hopes of implementing four-day schedules next school year….”

Here is the link to the North Branch, Minnesota school district referenced in the story.

From the web home of the district, here are proposed cuts in North Branch beyond the four-day week planned for next school year—

“Director of Finance and Personnel Randi Johnson presented the 2010-11 budget recommendation to the school board. It calls for $1.34 million in reductions, the majority of which are non-instructional. In brief, roughly $850,000 of the cuts are non-instructional, while roughly $222,000 are use of one-time funds. There are cuts to administrative, support, custodial, transportation, and classroom teacher staff. However, though teaching staff comprises roughly 50% of the overall budget, they account for 19% of the reductions, and most of those reductions (roughly 4 of the 6 full-time equivalent positions) were accomplished through attrition – retirements, leaves of absence, etc.”

Can you imagine our children being any more ignorant than they are? The length of the school year needs to be expanded.

Can you imagine that parents, taxpayers, teachers, business leaders, and elected officials in these school districts can’t work out a solution?

All I can say if that these kids were really needed to fill high-tech jobs and if the future really had value, a solution would be found.

You can bet that a way will be found for wealthy kids to get the education they need to get good jobs.

March 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 6 Comments

No Kidding—Children Understand More Than Many Adults Are Able Or Willing To Grasp

Here is a shocker—Babies and small children understand more than many people imagine.

Maybe the only way to grasp this is to not have children–I have none– and see the idiocy and condescension with which many parents and adults address kids of all ages. 

I don’t know if this is because these parents are lazy or because they lack imagination.  Both I suppose. Maybe parents resent the presence of someone who they fear might have a real future.

Maybe the daily brutality and neglect with which we treat poor kids in our society seeps into people’s homes as a dislike of all children. Even people’s own kids are seen as not meriting full effort. 

From New York Times health columnist Jane Brody–“Keep in mind that preverbal children understand far more than they can say. One of my grandsons was a late-talker. When he wanted something to drink or eat, he went to the refrigerator or pantry and pointed. Our job was to ask, “Do you want water, milk or juice, cereal or raisins?” and wait for his response. When we guessed right, we reinforced the verbal message by saying, “Oh, you want cereal.”…Count the steps as you go up or down. My twin grandsons’ math skills flourished long before they could speak in sentences because they live in a third-floor walk-up. At whatever age your children start talking, let them know you are interested in what they are saying by repeating and expanding upon it and asking them to repeat what they said if at first you do not understand them.”

I don’t have kids and fair portion of my life is over. Why should I care? It’s just as how I’m willing to pay taxes for the benefit of other people’s kids, while so many parents won’t pay up for the good of their own children or other people’s kids.

And yet–I get tired in life of seeing kids who clearly have some smarts and who have questions about the world, being so poorly served by the adults in their lives.

If you have kids, please make the effort required to teach these kids. The future may well be one of disappearing jobs and rising oceans. Folks without the needed skills to do well are going to be out in the cold.

Beyond that—People with strong verbal and communication skills have better lives all around. They have better relationships and they learn more about the world.

So many parents just seem to be lousy parents.

October 13, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 8 Comments

Paid Sick Days Needed For American Workers—Swine Flu Is Coming

There is concern about a second wave of Swine Flu in the United States that might be triggered in part by the start of the school year.

Many adults may need to take off work to take care of sick kids. Many adults may get sick themselves.

Yet many American workers don’t have paid sick time or don’t have enough paid sick time.

Here is a link to a Huffington Post story based on research by the Drum Major Institute about how many workers lack paid sick days in the United States. It is estimated that 46 million private sector workers do not have a single paid sick day.     

Here is the link to the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy.

Legislation to guarantee American workers paid sick time was recently introduced in the House of Representatives.  We’ll see if it ever passes. With a Democratic President and large Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress, you’d think long overdue legislation to make sure everybody has paid sick days would pass easily.  

You hear a lot of talk about family and children in the United States. But really what many have in America is contempt for any group of people who need some help to get by in day-to-day life. Many have this contempt even if the help required is something that people have earned by virtue of the work they have done.

August 23, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

Tom Schieffer Asks If There Is A Better Texas In A Parallel Universe—Maybe A Universe Where Democrats Did Not Fail Texas For Many Years

Democratic candidate for Governor of Texas Tom Schieffer recently released the statement at the bottom of this post about where Texas ranks in the nation in a number of important quality of life indicators.  

( A number of Houston-area bloggers had lunch with Mr. Schieffer earlier this week. I was at that lunch. I’ll have more to say in the week ahead about what I thought of Mr. Schieffer.)

Mr. Schieffer gets it right that Texas is in many respects a child-hating mess of a place. Though he is wrong to blame it all on incumbent Republican Governor Rick Perry. Governor Perry is a hard-hearted man who easily turns his back on the suffering of others. But it is Democrats who have run Texas since statehood. Democrats ran this state until not so long ago. 

It is not as if Governor Perry entered a Garden of Eden and paved it over. Texas has long had serious issues that have gone unaddressed or have been made intentionally worse to help make the already powerful even more powerful.

Democrats should not get a free pass on the harm they have done to Texas. The Democratic Party in Texas has yet to earn the trust of liberals and progressives, and has yet to earn the trust of hard-working Texans who need some help in life. (Which is not to suggest that many hard-working Texans are not to blame for helping to elect folks like George W. Bush and Rick Perry.)

One thing I enjoy about Mr. Schieffer’s statement below is his reference to a “parallel universe.” I wonder if bloggers get paid big money in the parallel universe. Dr. Max Tegmark at M.I.T is a leading proponent of the theory of multiple universes. Here is his web page on that subject.

Here is Mr. Schieffer’s campaign web home.   

Here is Mr. Schieffer’s statement—     

If Governor Perry, as he told reporters yesterday, thinks we’re doing well in comparison to other states, he’s living in a parallel universe. Just take a look at his scorecard as governor. 

Texas is: 

51st (counting the District of Columbia) in the percentage of people older than 25 who have a high school diploma. 

50th in the percentage of unemployed people receiving benefits. 

49th in teacher pay.

 49thin benefits paid to women, infants and children under the WIC program.

 46th in SAT scores. Continue reading

August 22, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Houston Mayoral Candidate Annise Parker Offers Plan For City Dog Pound, But Offers No Plan For Poverty And Houston’s Children

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The campaign web home of Houston mayoral candidate Annise Parker, our current Houston City Controller, has plenty of information about what Ms. Parker would do about the city dog and animal pound if she is elected.

( Above—Annise Parker. Ms. Parker is a Democrat running for Mayor of Houston.)

What you won’t find at her campaign web home is any information about Ms. Parker’s approach to poverty in Houston if she is elected. Also, you won’t find what Ms. Parker would do to improve the lives of children in Houston.   

The city dog pound is a mess and it should be made right. It is an issue our next mayor needs to address.

But what about poor folks and all the poor children we have in Houston?

Here is some extensive data on poverty in Houston for 2007.

Some of the facts—

* Just over one-third of kids in Houston under the age of 5 in Houston lived in poverty in 2007. The number for Texas as a whole was just under 27%.

* Nearly one-fifth of all women aged 35-44 in Houston lived in poverty in 2007.

* Over 8% of people in Houston had an income less than that of half the poverty level in 2007.

With the hard economic times in 2008 and 2009, it is likely that these already bad numbers are now worse today.

Given the condition of so many of our people in Houston, is it any shock we mistreat dogs? 

Ms. Parker is a decent person. She’s right that the pound needs to be fixed. Yet there are even more pressing issues in Houston that Ms. Parker does not appear to be focused on at the moment.

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calling All Smart Kids—Come To Texas To Compete For College Spots And Jobs Against Kids Who Get Right-Wing Education In Public Schools

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The Texas State Board of Education is talking about changes in what  kids learn about history and social studies in public schools. They want to shift the curriculum away from the facts and towards the political and Christian right.

Here is a Houston Chronicle article on the subject.   

( Above–A schoolhouse in Maryville, Tennessee where Sam Houston taught in the early 1800’s. Here is the link to the Sam Houston Memorial Museum in Huntsville, Texas. This schoolhouse in Maryville is open to the public and has an interesting history. Please click here to learn more about it.)

The Wall Street Journal has also written about this subject. Here is the link to that story.  From the article—

“The Texas Board of Education, which recently approved new science standards that made room for creationist critiques of evolution, is revising the state’s social studies curriculum. In early recommendations from outside experts appointed by the board, a divide has opened over how central religious theology should be to the teaching of history.”

The articles here speak for themselves. What is to be taught is a right-wing inaccurate version of the facts. Parents, and all concerned citizens, can decide to take a role in this debate or they can just ignore it all.

Here is the link to the Texas State Board of Education.

People say that having kids changes you and that people care about their kids more than anything. What I see is apathy about education and parents who lack the imagination and the willingness to prepare kids for the demands of adulthood.

I’m happy to be proven wrong on this— But it won’t be individual examples of great education and great parenting that impress. I know these things take place all the time.

What will convince me is a well-educated society as a whole, and parents who take the time needed for their own kids and who are willing to meet the tax burden required to provide a decent education for all kids.  

In the meantime, if you’ve got a smart hard-working kid, bring the kid to Texas and take advantage of the weak competition for college spots and good jobs. 

 From the Houston Chronicle article—

Biographies of Washington, Lincoln, Stephen F. Austin? Not fit reading material for children in the early grades. Cesar Chavez? Not worthy of his role-model status. Christianity? Emphasize its importance. Such suggestions are part of efforts to rewrite history books for the state’s schoolchildren, producing some expert recommendations that are sure to inflame Texans, no matter their political leanings.

The State Board of Education expects to start discussing new social studies curriculum standards this week, with members of the public getting their first opportunity to speak this fall and a final board vote next spring.

The process is a long one with lasting impact: reshaping the social studies curriculum, including history, for 4.7 million Texas public school children. “This is something that every parent would want to be paying attention to… ”

Curriculum standards are updated about every 10 years; the last social studies update came in 1997. According to a preliminary draft of the new proposed standards, biographies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Stephen F. Austin have been removed from the early grades, said Brooke Terry of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The early draft, which is likely to change multiple times in the coming months, also removes Independence Day, Veterans’ Day, and anthems and mottos for bothTexas and the United States in a section on holidays, customs and celebrations, she said. “You have the ability to shape the next generation on the beliefs about the government and the role of personal responsibility but also understanding our history and the principles that we want to pass down to our children,” Terry said. “With many of the suggested changes, I think we would be backtracking on many of the important things that people fight for in defense of our country.” Continue reading

July 14, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Are The People Who Run Texas Human Beings?

Are the people who run the State of Texas human beings in the sense that we associate humanity with the possession of basic morality and regard for life? In the ten years I’ve lived in Texas I’ve wondered about this more than once. A recent Houston Chronicle story about the debate over expansion of children’s health insurance, taking place in that malignancy known as the Texas Legislature, made me ponder this question again. 

One in five children in Texas lack health insurance. It’s another way we hate children for not having the ability to pay their own way.  Children are in this regard as despicable as old people and wounded veterans. Drains on society. Is their any more certain death sentence in our society than the widespread expression of care and sentiment?  

From the Chronicle article

The debate over children’s health care this year will be as arduous as ever, but so is the ante: More than 160,000 Texas children whose cash-strapped parents can’t get state help to pay medical expenses for maladies as common as chronic ear infections or as daunting as cancer treatment. The argument among legislators will be whether to raise income-eligibility levels so that those children can join the 451,000 now covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Supporters say reducing the number of uninsured youngsters — now one in five — would benefit not only the children’s physical health but the fiscal health of Texas taxpayers. The federal government picks up 72 percent of the cost and providing health care in doctors’ offices is almost always cheaper than treating children in public hospital emergency rooms.

Critics worry about undermining employer-sponsored health coverage and point to the growing costs for the state. CHIP enrollment increases over the past two years have driven the state’s tab from $102 million to $267.5 million. There are no monthly premiums but families pay an annual enrollment fee of $50 and most co-payments for doctor visits or prescription drugs range from $3 to $10. A pending federal bill that renews CHIP is expected to allow Texas to increase income limits so more can enroll. The current limit for a mother and two children of $35,200 could be increased to $52,800. Rep. Ellen Cohen, D-Houston…Cohen this week plans to introduce a bill that would expand CHIP and take advantage of anticipated new federal funds. “Since 2003, Texas has turned away almost $1 billion of federal matching funds by failing to invest in CHIP,” Cohen said. “As a result, we are left with the highest uninsured population of children in the nation.” Gov. Rick Perry’s spokeswoman, Allison Castle, said the governor does not support expanding CHIP’s eligibility standards because of the higher income families who would be covered. She said Congress is trying to lure the state into expanding programs in tough times and doing so would put the state on a “slippery slope to socialized medicine.”

Children living in middle-income families are increasingly joining the ranks of the uninsured. That is largely because employer-based health insurance premiums have more than doubled since 2000. The average annual cost to employees is $3,355 and the cost to employers is $9,325, for a total cost of $12,680, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only half of Texas private-sector employers offer insurance, and among small businesses, the percentage drops to 34, the federal government reports.

The “slippery slope to socialized medicine.” Sure. We can’t have that. We”ll just have all these kids without health insurance.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Texas, Ways We Hate Children | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Many Texas Kids May Lose Health Insurance Because Of Hurricane Ike

This is from the Houston Chronicle—

“At least 36,000 children living in the areas affected by Hurricane Ike may fall off the rolls of government health insurance programs because they have not re-enrolled for the coming year. Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, said more than half of the 72,000 children statewide who did not re-enroll in Medicaid are from the Houston and Beaumont areas — both hit by Hurricane Ike. “We expect to see some swings in enrollment, but this was bigger than normal,” Goodman said. “Seeing a higher percentage from one area also raised warning signs that we need to stop and take a look at this.” Children will have coverage through the end of the year as agency workers call families to find out why they did not submit applications. “In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike and a worsening economy, it is critical that safety net programs are operating as efficiently as possible so that struggling families can get the help that they need,” said Barbara Best of the Houston-based Children’s Defense Fund Texas office. Medicaid coverage applies to children whose families are at federal poverty levels, meaning a family of three would earn no more than $17,600. CHIP coverage is available for a similar family earning up to twice that amount. Goodman said many families did not return application renewal forms that were mailed to their homes. The agency is trying to determine if mail and other disruptions caused by the hurricane prevented families from completing paperwork.”

This was all foreseeable. It could have been a priority to address.  It’s just that nobody bothered.

Now when it comes to job cuts at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston–Well, folks are all over that making sure it gets done. 

Where is the coordinated response of our elected officials— at least the Democrats—to these problems? Where are the doctors who worked hard for so-called tort reform in Texas, but are now silent when people need help?

(Update–This issue has been addressed for the time being. We’ll see how this is dealt with over the longer haul. Why is it such an adventure to make sure kids have health insurance in this state? Or adults for that matter.)

December 22, 2008 Posted by | Ways We Hate Children | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kids In Corpus Christi Play In Rat-Infested Playground

 

The playground at Cole Park in Corpus Christi, Texas was closed over the weekend.

Children at the playground had been playing with a dead rat.

Here is a story about the park closure

(The above photo is of a rat in proximity to a squirrel. Both creatures are dirty and should be avoided. Here is information about rats.)

I was in Corpus Christi this weekend.

I saw the playground. It’s in a park along the waterfront and near downtown.

The playground was blocked off with an orange plastic mesh barrier.

The rat story was well-covered in both the newspaper and on television news. I’m sure it was also on local radio. 

Yet when I saw the playground on Saturday afternoon, at least 10 people had crossed the barrier and were in the rat zone.   

I had to look twice to believe what I was seeing.

Some of the people in the rat zone were adults. Most were kids.  

It’s possible, I suppose, that the parents had not recently read or seen any local news.

Still, the playground was barricaded. The parents could have guessed it was barricaded for some reason.

I wondered why the City of Corpus Christi had not posted a sign in both English and Spanish notifying people why the park had been closed.

The city park superintendent, a Chris Semtner, was interviewed on TV. He said the city lacked the resources to keep the park as nice and rat free as he would wish. 

I bet Mr. Semtner was telling the truth.

The park is now open again.

Corpus Christi is an excellent city and I will have nice things to say about it in upcoming posts.

However, it does appear that some parents in Corpus Christi lack parenting skills and that the people of that community have not yet decided that children deserve a nice place to play.

Also, based on what I’ve read about this issue, it would be good if people using Cole Park would not leave rat food in the form of trash all around the playground.

This story could happen anywhere in America.

What is wrong with people and why are our priorities so wrong in this society? 

March 17, 2008 Posted by | Texas, Ways We Hate Children | , , , , | 6 Comments

I Voted Yes On Houston School Levy So Kids Can Take More Civics Classes And Question Legtimacy Of Political Structure Unable To Address Global Economy And Climate Change

I voted this morning in our Houston city elections. I voted just a few minutes ago. I did not get the sense of high turnout.

High turnout would require voters that care, a Republican Party that thought Houston was worth fighting for, and a Democratic Party that had the competence and imagination to make at least some effort to generate turnout of Democratic voters.

We don’t have any of those things in Houston.

For Mayor of Houston I voted for Amanda Ulman. I posted about this last week. Bill White did not need my vote and voters deserve options.

Can you imagine that not one Republican in Houston cared enough about his or her city to run and offer competing ideas in contrast to Mayor White to our citizens? 

I voted forJolanda Jones for Houston At-Large Position 5. Hopefully she’ll make it to a run-off and the sneaky Zaf Tahir will not. Please click here to read about Mr. Tahir and the things he has been up to as a candidate.

I voted for Melissa Noriega and Peter Brown in other at-large Council races. I’m looking forward to Mr. Brown’s possible candidacy against Annise Parker for Houston Mayor in 2009. I think Mr. Brown will offer a hopeful vision for Houston in sharp contrast to the deadening business-as-usual pragmatism that characterizes Ms. Parker’s type of politics.     

In addition to the city candidates, there were a number of important school levies, county bond issues and Texas statewide matters on the ballot.

I voted yes on the Houston school levy because we need to prepare these kids to have the civic awareness to realize that both major parties are selling them down the river on the global economy and climate change.

I think that with a few more social studies, civics and history classes, kids might begin to ask questions about the basic legitimacy of a system that either cannot or will not address the most important issues of the future.     

November 6, 2007 Posted by | Houston, Houston Council Election '07, Politics, Ways We Hate Children | , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments