Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:
Amarillo Globe-News. Jan. 1, 2018.
At least four bills in the 85th regular session of the Texas Legislature that would have addressed an unfair law in the Lone Star State failed to go much of anywhere.
The bills were related to a state law, which has been around since 2001, granting in-state college tuition to illegal immigrant students.
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Some describe the law in more politically-correct (if not nonsensical) terms. A December post on www.mystatesman.com painted the law as benefiting "college students from Texas living in the United States without legal permission."
How can a student be considered to be "from Texas" if this student does not have "legal permission" to be in the United States in the first place? The amount of politically-correct spin in this statement is beyond dizzying.
But back to the fairness — or unfairness — of the aforementioned law.
Why is it the state of Texas considers it fair for a student living in Texas "without legal permission" (should this not be considered illegal?) to receive a financial benefit that a legal resident of a neighboring state is not eligible to receive?
How is this fair? The logical answer — it is not fair.
For those who have not priced the cost of a college education lately, there is a significant difference between in-state tuition rates and out-of-state tuition rates.
Why should a legal resident of Oklahoma, New Mexico or Louisiana face the higher cost of attending a college or university in Texas, while an illegal resident (who, according to the law, must have lived in Texas for all of three years) be entitled to lower in-state tuition? There is no logical reason.
Thankfully, at least the aforementioned law does require students living in Texas "without legal permission" to at least earn a high school degree. (Sarcasm noted.)
It seems unlikely there will be much progress in future sessions of the Texas Legislature as far as repealing or fixing this politically-correct law which ignores immigration laws and grants special financial benefits not available to legal residents who happen to be from outside the state of Texas.
The unfair aspect of this law continues.
Houston Chronicle. Jan. 1, 2018.
Angry letters to the editor, long lines at public hearings and heartbroken stories of dashed expectations were all signs of a people losing confidence in a state agency.
That's what Texas saw last year following the Chronicle's publication of the series "Denied" disclosing that the Texas Education Agency had imposed an arbitrary 8.5 percent cap for decades on special education services for children in Texas public schools.
TEA has since renounced the cruel policy, and a law was passed to make sure that special ed students are not the targets of an arbitrary cap again. Notwithstanding these actions, the agency remains in a hole with regard to public trust.
In the upcoming year, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath should continue to work hard to rebuild agency credibility through open and aboveboard communication and effective management.
Unfortunately, progress at the agency remains uneven, and these past months — when the agency has been involved in a high profile kerfuffle regarding a $4.4 million no bid contract — are no exception.
A few weeks ago, Morath ordered an immediate end to the contract with a Georgia-based company engaged to help overhaul special education practices by analyzing thousands of personal records of students with disabilities. The termination came amidst allegations of favoritism within the agency in awarding the bid, charges of firing a whistleblower and accusations against the dismissed employee of covering up sex abuse in another state.
Such messy circumstances can only inspire further distrust.
Morath has ordered a review of contracting processes. But that won't claw back the $2.2 million in federal funds that the agency has already paid for services rendered under the terminated contract.
"It feels like a very, very disturbing waste of money," Cheryl Fries, founder of parent advocacy group Texans for Special Education Reform, told The Texas Tribune.
Other questions linger as well. Were there sufficient grounds for the contract to be entered into with a relatively unknown company without competitive bidding? What direction will the agency take in moving forward? When will the agency take steps to reach out to the families of special needs children who were denied services? Did the agency follow state procurement laws in awarding the contract?
"The way to make people trustworthy is to trust them," Ernest Hemingway once wrote. Families all over Texas want and need to trust the TEA to be an ally in educating their special needs child. But TEA needs to get its act together and consistently behave in a trustworthy manner. In attempting to rebuild the agency's reputation, Morath needs to be mindful that every decision counts.
Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Jan. 2, 2018.
For a self-proclaimed great negotiator, President Trump has staked out a curious position for himself on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, aka DACA. It reminds us of a scene in the western movie spoof "Blazing Saddles," in which the central character takes himself hostage, putting his gun to his head to stave off a lynch mob.
Trump recently tweeted: "The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc. We must protect our Country at all cost!"
He followed up with a tweet that Democrats are doing nothing for DACA and that its recipients, the so-called DREAMers — productive young undocumented immigrants brought here as children — would "fall in love" with the Republican Party.
It doesn't take the average overachieving DREAMer's common sense to recognize that the loaded gun in Trump's hand is not pointed at the Democrats.
Trump's proposed wall, the wedge issue he used successfully to appeal to the worst anti-immigrant instincts in his most loyal voters, would be an ecological, economic and diplomatic disaster. But of perhaps more immediate concern is that it would cost multiple billions of dollars we don't have available to waste. And that even Trump's most gullible voters have figured out by now that Mexico won't pay for the wall.
DACA's end is due in March if Congress doesn't act. That leaves 800,000 DREAMers in an inhumanely precarious position. If Trump wants to play chicken with these people's lives and livelihoods, he should consider what hangs in the balance and who's really at risk.
DACA immigrants do our economy a lot more good than harm. They earn almost $20 billion a year and pay more than $3 billion in taxes.
Trump's huge tax cut, his lone legislative victory, comes at an estimated cost of $1.5 trillion. He needs the DREAMers and their earnings. Democrat, Republican or otherwise, we all do.
He also needs to rethink his position on what he calls "chain migration." The terminology is basically hater-spin on how we all got to this country — once upon a time, which can be as recently as last year or as long ago as 20,000 years via the Bering Strait, our industrious ancestors immigrated here and sent for the rest of the family as soon as they could manage it. Trump owes his own citizenship and silver-spoon privilege to so-called "chain migration."
Demonizing family immigration as "chain migration" is a political ploy for fanning fears of terrorism. But eventually it will occur to even his most committed anti-immigrant supporters, even if they claim Mayflower lineage, that they still have some relatives in the old country they'd like to sponsor. The rest of the country already have figured out that they are pro-immigrant, according to polls.
Trump keeps talking about wanting to let in only productive people who can help us. He can't do that by killing one of their main incentives. No one with any gumption would want to come here if it meant leaving behind his or her entire family for good.
The bottom line is that immigration is good for the economy and the gene pool and hindering immigration is bad for both. The right, smart thing for a president to do would be to urge Democrats and Republicans to deliver DACA legislation pronto, treat the wall as a separate issue, abandon "chain migration" hate rhetoric and stop playing with that loaded gun.
The Dallas Morning News. Jan. 2, 2018.
The term "fake news," already embedded in the national psyche of this country, achieved global recognition when the UK-based Collins Dictionary declared it the Word of the Year for 2017, citing its "ubiquitous presence."
The masquerading of fake news as real, and assaults on real news as fake, threatens our democratic institutions, including that of a free press. This compounds problems abroad and creates tensions worldwide.
Collins defines the term as "false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting." President Donald Trump uses it as a rhetorical device to discount an unfavorable story or distrusted news outlet or diminish the media at large.
Others are following his lead: Trump surrogates, members of Congress, autocrats and dictators elsewhere now alleging fake news treatment, and political analysts who argue that unverified information that is "out there" gives them license to repeat it as fact.
Fake news comes in different forms, ranging from total fabrication to distortion of facts to state-sponsored propaganda to the spread of erroneous content on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Trump repeatedly turns to Twitter to discredit the news media, tweeting about fake news 141 times from January through October, according to Fox News' Chris Wallace. Americans disturbingly are buying in. A politico poll recently found that 46 percent of voters actually believe major news organizations make up stories about Trump.
This is troubling in the journalism universe. At least most major news organizations admit their mistakes. Still, we clearly we need to do more to regain reader trust.
But readers and viewers also should find the spread of fake news troubling. Which brings us to another intriguing Word of the Year. Dictionary.com selected "complicit," noting the word's new relevance in politics and social commentary.
Dictionary.com says complicit means "choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing." Put simply, it means being, at some level, responsible for something . . . even if indirectly.
Interest in the word spiked during 2017, including after Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona announced his retirement, saying, "I will not be complicit or silent" about the current political climate and the tone of Trump's presidency. It emerged in conversations about alleged sexual misconduct by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and whether others knew of the behavior but failed to stop it.
The connection between "complicit" and "fake news" is easily made. Americans have become complicit in accepting and sharing fake news. We all need to be smarter in recognizing deception.
Some advice: Don't trust everything a friend shares with you online. Be your own fact-checker. Share only stories you know to be true. Call out "friends" who send you unverified rubbish. Be willing to pay for journalism you trust.
Our nation needs discerning readers and viewers — those who welcome honest journalism that holds leaders accountable and provides vital information for citizens to cast informed votes and contribute to decision-making.
Nothing less than our democracy depends on it.
Beaumont Enterprise. Jan. 2, 2018.
Plans for a "bullet train" to run between Houston and Dallas took a step forward recently, and the venture should be given every chance to succeed. But its backers should hold to a promise not to seek state or federal aid for the project.
Although proposals like this can seem intriguing, they face many financial and environmental barriers. If this train can surmount them, fine. Its developers have said they might seek federally supported loans available to other private companies, and that's acceptable.
But taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize an experimental project like this if developers get midway through and realize it's not viable.
Or if it does get up and running, tax dollars should not be required to keep it open if private sales turn out to be insufficient.
This $12 billion project by Texas Central is envisioned as a 90-minute, 200-mph alternative to a longer highway drive or even airline flight.
The Federal Railroad Administration removed one bureaucratic obstacle when it released a draft environmental impact statement that identifies a preferred route as well as possible station locations.
That begins a public comment period that runs through late February. Texas Central and the FRA will consider those comments when planning a final statement.
Bullet train backers like to point out how this mode of transportation succeeds in Japan and Europe. That's encouraging, but the United States is different. Automobile travel is much more common here, and many Americans have never been on a passenger train. There is also not much reason to believe they yearn for the experience.
Maybe this experiment will prove to be different. Texans would undoubtedly welcome an alternative way to get between our two largest cities if the train delivers as promised.
But if it turns out to be another financial albatross, its private-sector backers must absorb the loss.