• September 23, 2019

Recent editorials from Texas newspapers - Odessa American: State

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Posted: Tuesday, September 3, 2019 11:56 am

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

The Dallas Morning News. Sept. 3, 2019.

It's encouraging when we can report that a good law is delivering on its intended results.

Such is the case with a Texas rule that banned out-of-school suspensions for the state's youngest students except in cases of bringing weapons or drugs to school.

A new report from the advocacy group Texans Care for Children shows that the number of pre-K through second grade kids kicked out of school dropped nearly 80% the first year the law was in effect, from 36,475 in 2015-2016 to 7,640 in 2017-2018.

State law caught up with years of research that shows suspensions of these kids, some as young as 4, did little to improve behavior and kept too many kids on a downward spiral throughout their school careers.

That's the good news.

We're concerned that thousands of kids, more than 60,000, are still being removed from class on in-school suspensions. And a disproportionately high number of them are in special ed, or foster care, or they are boys or black. Even in controlled academic studies, black children who behaved appropriately in class endured disproportionate suspensions, according to the report.

Teachers have to be able to control their classrooms. Sometimes removal is required. Bringing a weapon to school or harassment and making serious threats should be non-negotiable, for example.

But we urge districts to pay closer attention to the part of the law that outlines available strategies that effectively improve behavior while keeping the struggling youngest children in their classrooms. Students can't learn if they aren't in class.

It's the reason we have supported the Dallas Independent School District's "restorative discipline" reforms that ban suspension of the district's youngest students while giving educators training on building student-teacher relationships to better identify the root cause of behavior problems. And students get help managing and understanding their emotions.

DISD was ahead of state law in recognizing that it had to do something about the large number of black students who were disproportionately kicked out of school. Dallas ISD reported no out-of-school suspensions for pre-K to second grade and fewer than 10 in-school suspensions for such grades, in 2017-2018.

A crucial next step is rooting out biases that lead to harsher treatment of some students across Texas.

We see a lot of promise in another bill — authored by then-Rep. Eric Johnson, now Dallas mayor — and passed in the last session. His bill would require schools to report the race, gender and age of students on out-of-school suspensions, and the reasons they were suspended. It was Johnson who led the charge banning out-of-school suspension while in Austin two years ago.

Johnson has worked for years to "dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and to build a school-to-workforce pipeline," as he has said.

The demographic data could go a long way in helping researchers identify and address the underlying reasons for the suspensions and work on solutions.

We know that some students come to school dealing with all kinds of horrible issues at home such as abuse and other trauma. We realize the big challenge teachers face each day.

But the findings on suspensions highlight the importance of giving Texas teachers the tools to build behavioral success. It's essential for all their students' success.

———

Houston Chronicle. Sept. 3, 2019.

Despite Republican attempts to bleed it to death, there are new signs that the Affordable Care Act can survive. The question now is whether Democrats will abandon it for some form of Medicare for All.

Among the positive signs, premiums for most ACA plans offered in the Houston area will go down about 1% to 2% in 2020. In contrast, premium rates for Obamacare plans across the country are expected to go up about 3%, but even that is good news given premiums nationally increased about 30% last year.

Those price hikes were in part due to elimination of Obamacare's individual mandate penalty, which the Republican-controlled Congress repealed in 2017. With the penalty gone, many healthy Americans decided to forgo insurance. That led insurance companies saddled with sicker risk pools to raise their rates.

With the ACA on the ropes, the Trump administration issued new rules benefiting Obamacare alternatives by expanding consumers' access to short-term and association health plans. These cut-rate plans aren't as extensive as the ACA's, which means their policyholders may not have the coverage they need if they get seriously ill or injured.

The administration didn't seem concerned about that. Nor did it seem concerned about people's health when it slashed the ACA's outreach budget, severely limiting the program's ability to enroll participants. Outreach funding was cut from $63 million in 2017 to $36 million in 2018 and only $10 million this year.

Despite such blatant attempts to blow up Obamacare, it is becoming more ingrained. In fact, several insurance companies, including Cigna, Oscar, Bright Health, and Centene, are expanding the number of states where they will offer ACA plans. That's a clear sign that companies that once feared losing money with Obamacare have found ways to make a profit.

That doesn't mean the ACA is no longer in jeopardy. The number of individuals who selected an insurance plan on the ACA marketplace has dropped from a peak of 12,681,874 in 2016, the last year of the Obama presidency, to 11,444,141 this year.

Blame for the drop can't all be placed at President Trump's feet, though he vowed to kill Obamacare during his campaign. The ACA is in serious need of repair. Flaws that became apparent soon after the first enrollment of participants began in 2013 still haven't been fixed. Among them: providing an incentive for middle-class families that don't qualify for the ACA's tax-credit subsidies.

With only 10 candidates qualifying to participate in the Sept. 12 Democratic presidential debate at Texas Southern University, health care should be a larger part of their conversation. After all the effort it took to pass Obamacare and fight off legal attacks, voters need to know why some Democrats argue the ACA should be abandoned for a different massive program that would be subjected to the same gauntlet.

Encouraging signs suggest an improved ACA is the better choice for America right now, even if it becomes a bridge later to something even better.

———

Amarillo Globe-News. Sept. 3, 2019.

Tradition should be sacred, and the people of West Texas are serious about their traditions, so that's just one of several reasons we are glad to see the iconic white buffalo statue moved from its longtime location at Kimbrough Memorial Stadium to the brand-spanking-new Buffalo Stadium that West Texas A&M University will christen Saturday, Sept. 7.

The statue, crafted by Amarillo artist Jack King Hill, will be dedicated during an 11 a.m. ceremony Friday, Sept. 6. The next day the Buffaloes will lift the curtain on their 2019 season with a 6 p.m. home game against Azusa Pacific.

Hill, a sculptor who specialized in Native American culture, went to work on the statue and in 1967, and the result was the 9-foot by 12-foot, 1,800-pound white buffalo statue the artist believed would be the perfect complement to the landscape outside the stadium. Hill was a mechanic for Southwestern Public Service and also a safety coordinator at Nichols Station, but he had a passion for creating art.

"That's the mascot of the football team. The buffalo is a sacred animal," his son, King Hill, recalling his father's thoughts in a story earlier this week about the statue's history. "And not only does (the hill) need a buffalo, it needs a historic buffalo and it needs to be white because that's sacred to the Native American."

As our story pointed out, the white buffalo, which weighs nearly 2,000 pounds, now has a new home on the south entrance at the on-campus stadium.

The senior Hill, who passed away in 2003, created the buffalo statue during a four-month span in his Amarillo backyard. From the original creative vision, he fleshed out the statue first on a sketch pad with trial and error drawings of what the buffalo should look like. He also relied on the local library and the Smithsonian for assistance in bringing the sculpture to life. The white buffalo is one of several important pieces King created. His bust of Quanah Parker is on display at the National Hall of Fame of Famous American Indians in Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Once the sculpture was complete, then came the fun part — transporting the massive statue from its neighborhood birthplace to a hill outside the stadium located off a busy stretch of highway running between Amarillo and Canyon.

Originally, the buffalo was unveiled on a flatbed truck on the field during the 1967 homecoming game as it was formally presented to James Cornette, the president at WT then. A few weeks after that, it was anchored outside the stadium, where it has been on display for the past 52 years.

"I'm very grateful that it's going to be saved and preserved there — eternally grateful," King Hill said in our story.

Likewise, we're grateful to see this important artwork not just preserved but given its rightful place at the new venue. The Buffaloes have a long and distinguished athletic tradition, and it says something about the university's leadership that it was important to recognize the legacy of the past by connecting it to a vision for the future.

When Buffalo Stadium roars to life with a crowd of approximately 9,000 on hand , it will be nice to know the familiar sculpture that has been a steadfast presence at WT football games for so long will still be on hand.

Tradition, after all, should never be underestimated — or underappreciated.

© 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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