Texas Teachers did it, now it’s the Lawmakers Turn. Our Public Education System Needs You!

"student_ipad_school - 142" by flickingerbrad is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“student_ipad_school – 142” by flickingerbrad is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The COVID-19 pandemic forced our educators to adjust and teach like never before in history. This unprecedented event made public educators persevere and teach our children from non-traditional settings. Now that we have made the adjustments, our educators depend on our lawmakers to assist in their “new” normal.

Article 7 of our Texas Constitution lays out a clear understanding regarding our children’s education:

A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.

But, what exactly does this mean? And how can we apply it to the current pandemic and the future of education?

The first question can be answered by analyzing the language of Article 7. First, “a general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people” means that the spread of knowledge is essential to ensuring the fundamental principles that we have as citizens of Texas. Next, it speaks of the “duty of the legislature of the state”. State lawmakers must use their position to create and vote on laws in the best interest of Texas citizens. Lastly, it discusses what their duty is concerning public education, they must  “make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools”. This means that the legislature must understand the citizens of Texas situations and provide help towards those situations— adjusting as needed to create a seamless and positive outcome for teachers and students in free publicly funded schools.

To answer the second question, we can apply this to the current pandemic by making sure that the technology needs are matched with what is needed to give the schoolchildren of Texas an adequate education. When we look at the future of education, we are looking for new laws that ensure future instances where we must rely on education over the internet or electronically is done in a manner where no child is left behind.

As the Texas legislature convenes this year for its 87th legislation, education should be put at the forefront. It is easy at times to look at cutting education funding but doing so will be detrimental to Texas children and families. As we enter into this session there is good news with the Texas budget. There were cutbacks made during the summer of 2020 by Governor Abbot. This past December the federal government gave Texas $5 billion in federal relief funds for education. This gives us hope that the lawmakers will use funds to support the needs of our public education system. Additionally, the rise in property taxes within the last nine years can support our current educational needs. The lawmakers can shore up funds from these funds that are set aside, and navigate them to our public education system.

The lawmakers have plenty of resources to ensure our children are being educated. There are funds that can be allocated to public education, we just need the legislatures to ensure this is a priority. This might be a small step for the lawmakers in Austin, yet it can lead to a large step in the right direction towards the education of our Texas children.

Head Start Held Back by Government Shutdown

Photo from policymic.com

As the government shutdown begins this month, many Americans have yet to feel the pinch in their personal lives.  A few days without select federal programs may seem somewhat less earth shattering in it’s reality than it may have seemed in the whirlwind of news bytes and buzz words leading up to midnight of September 30th.  This however is not the case for everyone.  Many non-essential federal programs that are undergoing furlough are crucial in the lives of the most vulnerable of our citizens, our children.  As reported by The Hechinger Report:

The biggest immediate impact could be felt in Head Start programs, though, which are still reeling from federal sequestration cuts that pushed 57,000 children out of the preschool program for low-income children. According to the National Head Start Association (NHSA), an advocacy group, 23 programs in 11 states with grant cycles that begin Oct. 1 are poised to lose grant money due to the shutdown.

“Beyond the headline numbers, this shutdown has real consequences,” said NHSA Director Yasmina Vinci in a statement. “Government shutdown is one cut atop an already deep wound.”

In Prentiss, Miss., a town of about 1,100 people an hour south of Jackson, the Five County Child Development Program closed its Head Start classes on Tuesday after failing to receive funding. “The only funds we have coming in are the federal dollars,” said Jonathan Bines, director of the Head Start program, which serves about 900 children.

As the shutdown proceeds, more and more families with children will be looking for alternatives to their head start program.  In many households, this will mean a parent or family member staying home from work.  These repercussions are already being felt:

Bines says he has received phone calls from parents who are struggling to deal with the closure. In Jefferson Davis County, where Prentiss is located, the median household income is about $26,000, and about one out of every four residents lives in poverty.

“They don’t have any childcare,” said Bines. “Some of them are working. They’re trying to scramble to find a place to leave their children.”

A harsh reality for parents in low income high turnover jobs is the distinct possibility of job loss.

The political tools of congress people, who will not see an interruption to their pay of around 7 times the amount of these families, are directly impacting the lives of their citizens and voters.  The perceived protections from government overreach are likely to mean little in harsh realities where the relied upon services are removed. We can hope paths and services can be found that will help lessen the impact on our children. Maybe more crucially, we can hope that in the future, Congress will take more cautious aim as to collateral damage as they land their political blows.

Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

photo courtesy of: http://media.washtimes.com/media/community/viewpoint/entry/2012/04/08/not-for-sale-640_s640x427.jpg?73b8e21685896c3f2859310aaa5adb253919b641

Not So Well-Regulated Militias in Schools, Juvenile Justice Blog

However, absent from the media coverage of North Carolina, and lost amidst the General Assembly’s recent efforts to attack women, restrict voting, dismantle public education, make the rich richer and poor poorer, and initiate other measures from the American Legislative Exchange Council’s vile playbook, is a section buried deep (pages 77-78) in the recently ratified state budget that would allow armed militias to roam schools and arrest students.

The provision allows school districts to enter into agreements with sheriff’s departments and/or police departments that would provide former law enforcement officers and/or former military police officers to roam school hallways. The legislation requires the “volunteer school safety resource officers” to be trained in the social and cognitive development of children, but does not require training in their proper roles, students with disabilities, students’ rights, supporting students in positive ways, or cultural competency. Additionally, the bill mandates that neither a law enforcement agency nor a school district can be held liable for any “good-faith action” taken by an officer. Also, the bill does not prohibit the volunteers from carrying pepper spray, TASERs, and guns; presumably, volunteers will be armed. Perhaps worst of all, the provision gives the officers the power to arrest without any restrictions on such power (e.g., no arrests for minor misbehavior or manifestations of students’ disabilities). Notably, the state budget also provides grants for more paid law enforcement officers to patrol public schools on a full-time basis (misleadingly called “school resource officers”).

History and research tell us that unleashing armed cops and soldiers in schools will disproportionately impact students of color and result in more students unnecessarily in the juvenile and criminal injustice systems, more undermining of teachers’ and administrators’ authority, and more damage to learning environments. Even if law enforcement officers in schools were benevolently conceived as a means of keeping intruders out of schools and intervening when violence occurs, they are typically used as yet another developmentally inappropriate way of punishing misbehaving students who need understanding and positive support.

Since policymakers have repeatedly ignored thepleas and research from education and juvenile justice advocates, it’s up to school districts to stay true to their missions and reject more (paid or volunteer) cops in schools. And it’s up to all of us to demand investments in proven measures of ensuring school safety, such as: small schools and classes; Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports; ample support staff (e.g., teacher assistants, counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses, and mentors); student support teams; restorative justice, social and emotional learning, and bullying prevention programs. Let’s stand up and protect our students and schools, before it’s too late.

Russia Reports Third Children’s Camp Stricken, rferl.org

Health authorities in Russia’s eastern Primorye region are blaming contaminated food or water for sickness that has afflicted 28 children at a summer camp. But the problem comes after 116 children and two adults from the children’s camps Orlyonok and Gudok in the Perm area, near the Urals, required treatment in a hospital late last week for intestinal problems.

Last week a group of orphans fled the Vostok children’s camp near Irkutsk because of lack of food.

110 children taken ill after mid-day meal in Bihar, newstrackindia.com

At least 110 children were taken ill after eating mid-day meal in Bihar’s Arwal and Jamui districts Wednesday in the second tragedy related to free school food in the state this month, officials said. On July 16, 23 children died after eating contaminated mid-day meal in Saran district. In Arwal district 65 children were taken ill and in Jamui district 45 children fell sick in Kalyuga village.

The incident in Arwal district took place in government primary school in Chandi village and out of the 65 children who fell ill 10 fainted for a few minutes, officials said.

Children were served ‘khichri and chokha’ in the mid-day meal. “Soon after they ate the food, some children complained of vomiting and pain in stomach,” an official said. In a similar tragedy, 23 children died after eating contaminated mid-day meal in Saran district. A forensic report confirmed the presence of toxic insecticide traces in the cooking oil used for making food at the school.