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Recent editorials from Texas newspapers

November 24, 2019

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:

The Dallas Morning News. Nov 22, 2019.

Police Chief U. Renee Hall: State troopers will stay in Dallas to help protect our people

Crime in Dallas is trending in the right direction thanks to smart strategic policing decisions that have increased the availability and efficacy of law enforcement efforts across the city.

Critical among those decisions was Police Chief U. Reneé Hall’s support of partnering with state troopers to enhance a depleted Dallas police force in high-crime areas of the city.

The deployment of troopers over the summer drew criticism that state police were being heavy-handed in minority communities and enforcing “petty violations.”

While we are sensitive to such concerns, especially in neighborhoods where tension with law enforcement has been historically high, we believed that troopers were helping to make life safer in those very neighborhoods by arresting criminals who prey on residents and by taking guns off the streets that are too often the instruments of terror in poor communities.

Ronald Wayne White’s body was found in DeSoto three years after his death.

This morning, Chief Hall sounded her ongoing support for the partnership between DPD and the Department of Public Safety. That is a decision that deserves applause and that will lead to greater safety and prosperity in communities with disproportionate levels of crime.

Some activists, many with an anti-law enforcement agenda, have criticized the presence of troopers and will not be happy until they are removed from Dallas altogether. Thankfully, under Hall’s leadership, that won’t happen.

In fact, Hall pointed to the dozens and dozens of letters, emails and calls she has gotten from affected residents thanking her for ensuring that people can walk to the store or let their kids play outside.

No one should have to live in fear, whether they own a mansion or rent the best place they can afford for their family. We don’t accept activist claims that troopers hurt a community more than the crime that engulfs it.

A majority of the classrooms at the closed Pearl C. Anderson Middle Learning Center in South Dallas have been tagged over the last few years.

We know that troopers removed more than 700 guns from the streets by the end of summer. Meanwhile, there has been a steady, month-over-month decrease in violent crime, including a 9.6% reduction from September to October.

Troopers aren’t the only reason. Dallas police also made a concerted effort to identify and capture the city’s 100 most violent criminals. It’s just a fact that getting those sorts of people off the streets has a powerful impact on reducing overall crime. A handful of sociopaths can wreck the sense of security for a huge number of law-abiding people.

The department took in almost 60 of those criminals and the hunt continues.

But we know that DPD remains understaffed and that our officers on the streets need the help they are getting from their partners in DPS.

They are still out there, and Hall says they will continue to be deployed in ways that will help the DPD do its job, wherever that may be.

That’s smart leadership.

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Houston Chronicle. Nov 22, 2019.

Libraries belong in every HISD school

Many of us remember when we fell in love with the library. It’s when our passion for reading met with the limitless possibilities that libraries hold, and with a feeling of wonder as unknown lands stretched out before us waiting to be explored through reading.

Hold that moment. Feel the joy stirred by that memory.

Now imagine never getting the chance to experience it.

For too many kids in the Houston Independent School District that is their reality.

As reported by the Chronicle’s Jacob Carpenter, thousands of elementary and middle school students rarely check out books from their campus library, with records showing that in at least seven schools, all with a predominantly low-income population, most students didn’t take a book home in the entire school year. What kind of learning is happening when schoolchildren go an entire year without checking a single book out of the library?

Not enough, that’s clear. For years, HISD has ignored library services, with some principlals making library staff a priority and others clearly not.

A review of HISD operations by the state’s Legislative Budget Board found the district lacks a process to ensure that its libraries’ budget, staff, collection size and collection age align with appropriate standards. That needs to change. It leads to inconsistent services throughout the district, the report found, with some schools offering libraries staffed with certified librarians while other campuses have inadequate or nonexistent services.

Don’t just take our word for it. Hogg Middle School parent Angela Ryden told the editorial board the importance of having a working library cannot be overstated. She saw the difference in how her own children approached reading. Hogg’s commitment to literary efforts, including having a librarian on staff, was one big reason why she wanted to send her kids there, she said.

“A library is not just books in a room; it’s a librarian who is trained, knowledgeable and certified,” Ryden said. “It’s having someone who can work with the kids and the teachers.”

Too many people, parents and taxpayers — and apparently some principals — mistakenly believe all a librarian does is help kids check out books, that his or her knowledge begins and ends at the Dewey Decimal System.

If that were true, paying a full-time librarian to keep the chair warm at the circulation desk would be a luxury for cash-strapped schools. It would make sense that principals would rather use those resources on hiring another teacher. It could almost justify that only a third of HISD schools employ a full-time certified librarian.

But that’s not what a librarian does.

Mary Chance, the librarian at Hogg, doesn’t even check out books — she lets the kids do that. Instead, she spends her time creating and planning literacy opportunities for students. Librarians work closely with teachers, too, with several classes a day visiting the library as part of the curriculum.

“It’s devising programming that keeps kids reading when you have all these other things vying for their time,” she told the board. “It’s organizing author events, book competitions, book clubs, field trips, literacy nights. It’s making reading fun and something to be part of.”

The district needs to do a better job in convincing principals of the benefits of having a library and a certified librarian on staff, as well as ensure that at-risk students receive the same kind of learning opportunities their peers do. Its Library Services Department is meant to be an advocate, and it should find ways to boost library resources and literacy at every school.

Some would point out that not having a library doesn’t mean kids aren’t reading.

HISD has classroom libraries, book assignments, community groups that donate books to students, and language arts teachers. In general, district students do well on the state’s standardized reading tests — but the dozens of titles in a classroom bookshelf can’t compete with the thousands of books in a library. Besides there is so much more to reading than passing a test.

Chance sees her mission as helping kids fall in love with reading. When she succeeds, she expands their learning horizons and boosts their capacity to contribute to an informed society.

Every HISD student should have that opportunity.

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Amarillo Globe-News. Nov 21, 2019.

WT nursing program’s move to downtown a win all around

Downtown Amarillo will receive yet another dose of vitality with the announcement that the West Texas A&M University nursing program will move from the campus in Canyon to the Harrington Academic Hall WTA&M Amarillo Center.

The formal announcement was made by WTAMU President Walter Wendler during the City Council’s regular meeting last week. The move is anticipated to be finalized by the fall 2021 semester. University officials said the move was made possible with a $6 million investment borrowed from the Texas A&M University System. It is part of the university’s generational plan “WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.” The specific intent here is aimed at increasing the number of registered nurses with a comprehensive master’s degree.

“WT’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences mission is to enhance the quality of life for citizens in our region,” Dr. J. Kirk Nelson, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, said in a release from the university.

When all is said and done, the move means 250 undergraduate students as well as some 20 nursing faculty and staff will be located in downtown Amarillo, a shift that will open new windows of collaborative possibilities between the nursing program and other initiatives, including the Panhandle Area Education Center and the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center.

“It will be a center of operation for our nursing program,” Wendler said in our story last week. “With our strengthened commitment to rural healthcare, I think having the center right here in Amarillo is going to be an excellent center of gravity for our nursing program.”

The decision is a win on every front. Wendler estimates the economic impact of the move at roughly $100 million per year, and it places WTAMU’s excellent nursing program in closer proximity to other entities dedicated to wellness, creating new opportunities that will ultimately benefit the people of Amarillo and the Panhandle.

“Additionally, this move will place WT – with its faculty expertise, programmatic endeavors, facilities and proximity to multiple medically underserved counties – in a unique position to closely ally with the vice chancellor’s goal of an Institute for Advancing Agriculture and Health, which will improve the well-being of Texans,” Dr. Nelson said in the university’s news release.

Wendler told the City Council that there are 100 RN programs in Texas, and a primary metric used to measure effectiveness is the pass rate on the National Council Licensure Examination, an area in which WTAMU grads are among the top five with just more than 97 percent passing the test on their first effort. That speaks to the quality of education nursing students receive while the overall cost for students is a value that provides great accessibility to young people interested in this critically important profession.

“It’s going to be closer to the healthcare providers, and we’re in the top five in terms of pass rates while in the bottom five in BSN program costs,” Wendler said. “That’s exactly where WT wants to be.”

And the latest example of exactly what downtown Amarillo needs.

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