Recent editorials from Texas newspapers
Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Texas newspapers:
Valley Morning Star. April 1, 2019.
The Department of Homeland Security has announced plans to release possibly 5,600 immigrants, many of them complete families, across the Rio Grande Valley.
The move will strain all the communities affected, and city officials must do their part to mitigate potential problems.
Brownsville City Manager Noel Bernal said officials with U.S. Customs and Border Protection gave him that estimate of immigrants who will be brought to Brownsville, Harlingen and McAllen over the next few days.
The government began bringing them to the area last week.
That’s when officials said they couldn’t handle the number of people who have come to this country recently, and they no longer could enforce President Donald Trump’s order that they all be incarcerated.
They now are being released after being given hearing dates in federal immigration courts.
Volunteers all across the Valley have stepped up admirably to help the migrants since the initial surge of Central American refugees began arriving nearly three years ago.
Shelters such as Loaves and Fishes in Harlingen and Good Neighbor Settlement House have taken in and assisted as many as possible.
They and local churches are trying to meet the immigrants’ immediate needs and help them find and reach relatives and sponsors across the country who can house them until their immigration cases are adjudicated.
Such facilities, however, are being overwhelmed by the numbers of people and families in need, and local officials must be proactive rather than reactive in providing their own assistance.
McAllen Mayor Jim Darling has received some criticism since he pledged last month that the city would help Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley find a suitable place to receive and assist the immigrants. But it is the right approach.
Catholic Charities has gained international acclaim since it began receiving hundreds of unaccompanied youths from Central America who began arriving in the area, seeking asylum.
The group outgrew the Respite Center it established downtown, and in December moved to a 16,000-square-foot building near Hackberry Avenue and 2nd Street, but the city ordered the group to vacate after neighbors complained. Darling said the city would help find a better location.
Critics have suggested that isn’t the city’s job, and taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be spent on such efforts.
However, cities can’t escape the need to address the immigrants’ needs, and it’s best to help provide a place where those needs can be met and they can move on to cities and families that can provide them more permanent homes.
Otherwise, Valley cities will have to deal with untold numbers of homeless immigrants seeking help wherever they can, and from whomever they can, because local shelters are full and no offices are available to help the migrants find new homes.
Surely, no one wants to force immigrants to become vagrants — that contradicts the humanitarian spirit that so many Valley residents have shown in the past.
But it also is the most cost-effective approach. It enables volunteers to help meet the migrants’ needs, while reducing the costs that would be incurred if we allowed them to become stranded on our streets.
The Dallas Morning News. April 2, 2019.
The trickle-down effect of the Dallas Independent School District’s successful ACE program to improve education in low-income, struggling schools continues. Or maybe we should say trickle-up.
Plano ISD plans to borrow ideas from Dallas ISD to improve education for disadvantaged students, including offering its best teachers incentive pay to take on challenging classrooms and offering more services to kids in need. Next school year, the district plans to use some of the strategies that Dallas ISD has implemented with the ACE program, but as a high-performing district Plano has determined it does not need full Accelerated Campus Excellence campuses.
Plano is an example of how the lessons of Dallas’ innovative program can be applied to districts with very different needs. Expect six more districts across the state to announce in coming weeks they will also implement aspects of the ACE program, districts with very different histories and challenges.
We’ve come a long way from 2015, when then-Superintendent Mike Miles introduced ACE as a critical element of a reform plan that opponents of any pay-for-performance effort worked to kill. Since then, Richardson and Garland ISDs have shown that ACE can work in first-ring suburban districts that share some urban challenges. High-performing Plano’s decision to implement a similar plan shows just how effective such reforms have proven to be.
“Plano is kind of a different case for us because Plano is a high-performing district. But they do have certain inequities that the superintendent and her team have been committed to addressing,” said Garrett Landry, a senior adviser with Commit, which is working with Plano and other districts on improvement plans. “As we’ve seen with a lot of our suburban districts, we have rapidly changing demographics.”
Like many North Texas suburbs, Plano, once a high-income bedroom community with a reputation for excellent schools, has grown to become a city itself. According to the U.S. Census, the city’s population has grown 10% since 2010 to 286,000 last year.
Growth represents wealth and jobs, but it also saddles the school district with some urban problems. Around 29% of Plano ISD students are economically disadvantaged. That’s better than the state average of 59%, but higher than the portion of disadvantaged students in neighboring Frisco, at 11%.
In districts with more needy students, the ACE program has proven successful. Dallas now lists 17 schools in various levels of its ACE program, and the district points to strong academic improvement in core subjects. Richardson launched an ACE school program last year at four elementary campuses and has already seen academic improvement, and the district has plans to implement some of the strategies at other schools.
Landry said Plano doesn’t need full ACE treatment, with a total revamp in teaching staff at some campuses. Instead, the district will selectively offer incentive pay for top teachers to take on challenging jobs, and Plano will add more social services to needy campuses, such as an extended school day and afterschool enrichment.
He said a grant from the Texas Education Agency will help pay for the changes. The grant doesn’t pay for Commit’s help, as Commit is a nonprofit supported by donors and other education grants. He added that the ultimate plan depends on the desires of the school board after the May elections.
“We want to be able to provide an incentive for folks to go into the toughest of situations and be turn-around agents, be change agents,” said PISD board trustee David Stolle, who is running for reelection.
We are pleased to see districts trying new strategies to help impoverished kids. It’s especially hopeful to see a district like Plano take charge of the challenges of urbanism before they begin to erode the city’s growth. The not-my-kid, not-my-problem mentality often on display elsewhere isn’t just morally wrong, it will kill the Texas economy. Texas is going to need all of those children to grow up with the education and mental flexibility to do the jobs of the future that we can’t even yet envision.
Amarillo Globe-News. April 2, 2019.
It must be spring. The signs are all around (excluding the recent winterlike temperatures that remind us all we’re in West Texas). The surest proof of spring’s arrival is the news that Wonderland Amusement Park, a longtime community treasure located in Thompson Park, will usher in its 68th season with a soft opening Saturday.
Of course, that’s weather permitting. The temperature and precipitation need to cooperate for the first day to commence, but if the conditions are acceptable, expect to see families once again heading to the amusement park that draws as many as 200,000 guests annually.
“Amarillo has supported us for 68 years — we give them a good, clean place to come and we give back to the community,” Paul Borchardt, a second-generation member of the park’s ownership family, said in our story over the weekend. “It feels good to be contributing and doing something good for people.”
Wonderland officially opened as Kiddie Land on Aug. 12, 1951, according to the park’s website. It boasted three rides, which were each built by the original owner, Paul Roads. Mr. Roads and his wife, Alethea, had arrived in town from San Angelo and came upon a stretch of land far removed from what it is today.
“There were no trees, just scrub grass and sand burrs,” Mrs. Roads recalled in a story about the park’s history on the website. “It was so pitiful, we started back to San Angelo but only got so far as Canyon before we decided to give the location a second look.”
The city of Amarillo Parks and Recreation Department promised a series of improvements, including trees, and the Roads literally were on their way to realizing their long-held dream of building an amusement park. In 1969, bumper cars made their debut, and the name of the attraction was changed from Kiddie Land to Wonderland. With the name change came a continued commitment to maintaining a family atmosphere amid an era of expansion with numerous new rides added.
The park will open from 1-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (April 6-7) and from 1-8 p.m. April 13-14. It will also be open Easter weekend (April 20-21) from 1-8 p.m. The park now boasts more than 30 rides, including four roller coasters (a fifth is scheduled to come online later this spring), according to our story.
Wonderland’s opening creates approximately 120 temporary jobs with the number eventually growing to 250 at the height of the season. For the most part, these are younger people just entering the workforce, and the park’s commitment to employing and mentoring young people is admirable.
“I do have an influence on young people,” Borchardt said in our story. “I try to get them on the right job. It’s very satisfying when they (later) say, “I used to work for you and that was the best job I ever had.’”
Anyone who owns and operates a business will tell you it is often very much like a roller coaster. Payrolls have to be met, regulations observed, and standards maintained. All of this must be done while marketing a business in a relevant and compelling way. To do this as a second-generation, family-owned business is an impressive achievement — especially in the ever-increasing competitive world of attracting customers as Amarillo refines and expands its tourist/entertainment offerings.
There is a sense of comfort that comes from routine. It’s nice to see Wonderland once again getting ready for another season of fun and excitement for kids of all ages.