Archive for August 9th, 2017

Running HISD

Governor Mark White’s memorial service is this morning.

Commentary has mixed feelings about this on the front page of the Chron:

Texas education officials are warning that Houston ISD could be placed under the jurisdiction of state-appointed managers as early as next year if 13 district schools don’t show improvement.

The warning was issued during a meeting Monday between Texas Education Agency officials and Houston’s legislative delegation.

TEA officials told lawmakers that if even one of the district’s 13 schools that has struggled for at least the past three years receives failing accountability marks in 2017 and again in 2018, it could trigger state oversight of the entire district. Alternatively, the state agency could take over individual, chronically failing campuses.

And this:

State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., a Houston Democrat, said he could support a state takeover because he doesn’t have enough confidence in HISD to turn around schools that have been continuously identified as failing.

“We have almost 15,000 kids in failing schools in Texas. I’m tired of that. Most of them are in my district. Most of them are black and brown schools,” Dutton said.

HISD Trustee Anna Eastman also shared concerns about the board’s ability to function well enough to inspire such sweeping improvements. She pointed to a meeting in June when it took the board about eight hours to adopt a budget with a $106 million shortfall after midnight. She said the TEA required the boards for HISD and several other districts statewide to undergo mandatory training due to the number of district campuses labeled as failing, although she said she’s unsure the training had much of an impact.

And finally, this:

Rep. Senfronia Thompson, another Houston Democrat, lives a mile away from Kashmere High School, which has ranked low on the state’s grading scale for years. More than a dozen of the struggling schools identified by the TEA are in her district, she said, and the onus to turn them around falls on the HISD school board, not the state.

“If you look at that list, it’s all in the northeast area in the black community. I’m not running a flag up that this is discrimination, but somebody’s been asleep at the switch for this to continuously happen,” Thompson said. “It’s the district’s fault and they know how to fix this and they need to fix it.”

Here is the entire read: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/education/article/Houston-ISD-faces-state-takeover-if-long-failing-11743476.php.

Do we really think that a state takeover is the answer? This is a state that doesn’t prioritize public education and they want to come in and run our schools?  Of course, let’s see what the HISD Board does on filling the vacancy on the Board.   More on this to come for sure.

Instead of Commentary’s political candidate clients getting interviewed by the Chron E-Board, I may have to screen the E-Board. See this from theroot.com:

Seven journalists of color are departing the newsroom of the Houston Chronicle just weeks after concerned employees invited in diversity trainers hoping to jolt management into addressing its longstanding lack of newsroom inclusion.

Houston is considered one of the nation’s most diverse cities, so much that the Asian American Journalists Association announced a week ago that it would hold its 2018 convention there.

“Houston is cited as one of the most diverse cities in the US and it is [one of] the fastest growing Asian communities,” Kathy Chow, AAJA executive director, said Friday by email.

The Hearst-owned Chronicle, however, does not reflect those demographics.

According to figures it submitted to the American Society of News Editors for its annual diversity census, the newsroom is 76.3 percent white, 7.9 percent black, 10 percent Hispanic and 5.8 percent Asian Americans. There are no African American editors, and its top-ranking journalists of color, both Latina, are leaving.

Harris County, where Houston is located, is 42.4 percent Hispanic, 19.7 percent black and 7.2 percent Asian, according to 2016 projections from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The city of Houston, according to the 2010 Census, is 43.8 percent Hispanic, 23.7 percent black and 6 percent Asian.

Here is the entire story: http://journalisms.theroot.com/7-journalists-of-color-leaving-houston-chronicle-1797574585.

Sigh. Come on, Chron! You can do better. Don’t make me spend energy banging on you guys. I support you guys! Don’t make me look bad!

Does it matter? Commentary is talking about having a Dem run as a serious candidate against Gov. Greg Abbott. Will it have an impact on Cong. Beto O’Rourke’s race against Sen. Ted Cruz. The AP thinks it is a big deal. See this:

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democrats haven’t won a Texas governor’s race in nearly three decades, but a booming Hispanic population and the party’s dominance of the state’s largest cities have made them willing to invest in the contest to keep hopes of an eventual resurgence alive.

After high-profile candidates lost decisively in the last two elections, though, the party now finds itself in unprecedented territory for the 2018 ballot: with no major candidate to run.

Democratic leaders haven’t yet lined up a substantial name to represent the party and its message despite months of trying. Any continued faith in a Democratic turnaround in Texas is now colliding with pessimism that it will happen anytime soon.

“If they didn’t have somebody running for governor it’d be a symbol that they’ve given up,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.

And the lack of a serious 2018 candidate, following the dismal showing of the Democrats in the 2010 and 2014 governor’s races, could make it harder to capitalize later if the political climate improves, as the party expects.

“You run the risk of looking irrelevant,” Rottinghaus said.

Here is the entire article: http://www.chron.com/news/texas/article/A-new-low-Texas-Democrats-don-t-have-candidate-11742075.php.

I don’t think the Democratic Party in Texas would look irrelevant. Maybe some of its leadership, but not the Party.   Commentary would like to have a serious candidate in the race.  Is there another Beto out there?

Bill King has a take on immigration here:  

Not Everyone Concerned about Illegal Immigration is a Racist

I have regular breakfast with a group of politicos that represent a cross-section of the political spectrum.  Recently we had a discussion about immigration.  I referenced a recent Texas Lyceum poll which found that 72% of Texans were either extremely or somewhat concerned about illegal immigration.  The same poll asked an open-ended question of the most serious issue Texas is facing.  Illegal immigration and border security came in first and third with a combined total of 27%, more than double education, which came in second at 13%.  

I asked my group why they thought illegal immigration was weighing so heavily on the minds of Texans.  Two of the more liberal members of my breakfast group attributed the concern purely to racism.  But there were some other findings in the poll that contradict this simplistic explanation.  Sixty plus percent:  (i) were opposed to deporting all those living here illegally; (ii) supported some pathway to citizenship; (iii) opposed building a wall; and (iv) thought immigration helped the country more than it hurt it.  When asked why illegal immigration was a problem, only 2% said because it diluted American culture.  These are not the responses of racists.

And to completely lay the racist explanation to rest, 68% of self-identified Hispanics were either extremely or somewhat concerned about illegal immigration.  I’m pretty sure they were not motivated by racism.  

After kicking around these seemingly anomalous results, one member of our group with small children spoke up.  She said she was concerned about illegal immigration because of the effect it was having on her children’s school.  It had become significantly overcrowded because of an influx of immigrant children, most of whom spoke little or no English.  Trying to serve dozens of ESL children, including interfacing with parents who frequently spoke no English, was taxing the school’s resources and staff.  She noted cultural differences, especially as it related to the disparity in maturity regarding sexual matters.  She was also concerned about health issues.  Had these children been immunized as virtually all American children are?

These were imminently reasonable concerns and not at all based on racial animus.  And her concerns are not isolated.  How many times have you heard someone complain about being involved in an accident with an illegal immigrant who had no insurance?  There is no doubt that dangerous criminal gang members have slipped into the country along with those coming here for a better life.  Nor is there any doubt that they are making our drug problem worse.  And while we may not be able to calculate the amount by which illegal immigrant workers are driving down wages in low-skilled jobs, the basic laws of supply and demand tell us it must be having some effect.   

Is some of the current anti-immigrant fervor based on racial bigotry?  Undoubtedly.  But, there are plenty of valid reasons to be concerned about illegal immigration other than racial hatred.  And this is where I think immigration advocates hurt their case.  

The American people are generous and caring.  We make more charitable gifts than all the other countries in the world combined.  No country has a history of accepting more immigrants and refugees than the U.S.  When immigration advocates go on a screed charging racism, they are telling those with legitimate concerns that their concerns don’t matter and thereby make badly needed immigration reform less likely.

Like most public policy issues, immigration is complex.  But there is a broad outline of a rational policy that is obvious.  First, we must have a secure border, i.e., we must know who is coming and going in and out of country.  You cannot reform immigration without this predicate.  Second, we are not going to deport the roughly 10 million folks that are here without a valid visa.  So, let’s come up with a realistic plan about what to do with them.  Third, we must determine what is the appropriate level of immigration on an annual basis and how we should go about choosing the people we let in.   

Sure, there are those on the extremes who either want to have completely open borders or shut down immigration entirely.  But they do not represent the majority of the American people, notwithstanding that their slogans dominate the public debate on immigration.  As John McCain recently said, “To hell with them.”  It is time for reasonable people to come together to solve this problem.  

Commentary doesn’t have much to say about fire and fury.

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