S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, March 27, 2006

When the chips are down for kids

Texas Kids - how they fare.
Texas has not always done well by its kids. (It is just a bit above average in education spending, however). Nor have its other historically vulnerable populations done well either, according to The Rockefeller Institute.

Texas Demographics and Economy
  • Texas's 2004 population of 22.49 million was ranked #2 in the nation.
  • Its 2003 gross state product of $813.11 billion was ranked #3.
  • Its 2004 per-capita personal income of $30,222 was 8.2% below the United States average.
  • Population increased 21.1% between 1994 and 2004 compared with 11.6% for the nation.
  • Texas's state and local general expenditures were $111.60 billion in fiscal year 2002.
  • General expenditures were $5,231 per person, which was 14.1% below the United States average.
  • Elementary and secondary education expenditures were $1,503 per person, which was 4.3% above the United States average.
  • Public welfare expenditures (including Medicaid) were $699 per person, which was 29.8% below the United States average.
  • Higher education expenditures were $585 per person, which was 6.4% above the United States average.
The Children's Health Insurance Program -the CHIP program - enrollment is down in Texas , as reported in the Dallas Morning News. For a variety of reason, kids are falling through the cracks in Texas. This is one of the nation's most significant "safety net" programs for kids, enabling them to get regular health care. To quote from the story,
Ms. Grayson, a single mother and Fort Worth child care worker, says the state's new CHIP enrollment broker "lost a bunch of my stuff," even though she met deadlines and supplied proof she makes only $17,000 a year and drives a 1999 Chevrolet Lumina worth $1,400.
A spokeswoman for the state's main social services agency said it was Ms. Grayson's fault that Niki's CHIP coverage lapsed for January, though a separate error by the vendor wrongly kept the girl uninsured last month and this month.
Between errors and confusion about enrollment policies, hundreds if not thousands of poor Texas families have struggled, like Ms. Grayson, to keep their children on CHIP. State officials describe a "learning curve" – when the state changed vendors, altered rules and placed new obligations upon families. At the same time, a larger privatization effort has cast new scrutiny upon the process by which Texans apply for social programs.
Turmoil is fast becoming a constant for CHIP, a popular program Congress created nearly a decade ago to help families who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance. Deep budget cuts and an earlier round of policy changes in 2003 bumped about a third of the 507,000 children covered.
Texas took in a large number of New Orleans evacuees. A recent survey revealed that residents feel that this has put a certain "strain" on local populations. (See my previous post on this). But this very positive story details how New Orleans teachers enrich Texas kids' education experience. I quote from an article in the Houston Chronicle,
March 27, 2006, 4:51AM. HURRICANE AFTERMATH
Louisiana educators have been making a contribution in Texas, but they say negative incidents have overshadowed their stories
Evacuee teachers filling a gap, By JANET ELLIOTT. Copyright 2006 Houston
Chronicle Austin Bureau . . .
Palmer is one of hundreds of educators who have stepped in to fill vacant classroom slots and help the state handle the 46,000 students from hurricane-ravaged areas who enrolled last fall. She believes their stories have been lost in the ongoing tale of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. Her concerns seemed confirmed by a poll released last week in which three-quarters of Harris County residents surveyed by a Rice University sociologist said the influx of Katrina evacuees has put a "considerable strain" on the community.
Palmer said she thinks the poll results have "a lot to do with the fact that only the sob stories have been told, not the stories of survival and rebuilding." She wonders how many of those questioned for the poll have actually met and talked to someone like herself who is having a positive influence on her new community.
The Texas legislature still has the task of fixing the state's education system, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. To quote from this recent story,
posted on Mon, Mar. 27, 2006. Politicians listening to teacher organizations, By JOHN MORITZ STAR-TELEGRAM AUSTIN BUREAU . . .
Volunteer campaigners from the ranks of teachers, parents and school executives are credited with a large role in the March 7 defeat of veteran state Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, chairman of the House Public Education Committee. They were also decisive in other primaries across the state, where the central issue was how best to overhaul the way Texas pays for its schools and what voters should expect for the money. . .
Gov. Rick Perry has summoned lawmakers back to Austin beginning April 17 to make their sixth effort in three years to fix the state's unconstitutional method of paying for public education. The courts have imposed a June 1 deadline for completing the task or schools will be shut down.
A key factor in the five previous failed efforts was in the inability of state leaders to agree not only on how to remake the state's tax structure but also on how to restructure teachers' salaries, when to start and end the school year and whether to allow parents in certain school districts to use tax vouchers to pay for private education.
And key to Grusendorf's defeat and the defeat of several other candidates targeted by school groups was the notion that too many lawmakers in Austin were more concerned with advancing a political agenda than they were with tending to the needs of students, parents and teachers.
Child advocacy - Though our kids are all grown, and our grandchildren are growing up very fast, I have never lost my bias as a child advocate. The new millennium has brought hard times for kids and adults, and it is my feeling that we cannot afford ever to neglect this most precious of resources, our kids. Adults are much on their own.
My "creative post" today at Southwest Blogger is a Spring Break brain teaser.

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