Sunday, December 9, 2007

In Response to: State Program to Replace Old Vehicles Delayed...

I agree with my classmate's view in that low-income families probably don't want to, or can't, take on payments for a brand new car. The state is in the process of putting in place a new program that will give low-income families $3500 to put towards a new car. They must meet certain requirements like not making above a certain amount of money a year, and drive a car that is older than 10 years old. The purpose of the program is to try to take some of the older vehicles off of the roads that may produce more emissions.

I work for a car dealership, and when we received this letter from the state, I first thought it was an okay idea, until I thought about it a little more. We, of course, service the new vehicles with the new computers and parts that are supposed to cut down on emissions. And they work great. Except, when these parts start to go bad, and they are out of warranty, wow are they expensive to replace! That is not what a low-income family needs. Plus, newer cars are generally more expensive to maintain. So not only are we forcing these families to take on a new car payment, pay full coverage insurance until the vehicle is payed off, but then we are giving them more expensive maintenance on the new vehicles. If a person is struggling to barely live right now, they can't afford that. If a person does decide to apply for the program and buy a new car, what happens when they can't make the payments on it and it gets repossessed? Then they are left without transportation. Or what happens when a part brakes on it and it costs an outrageous amount to replace? They are then stuck without a vehicle.

With the annual income caps that they are putting on this program, I think they are creating more problems then they are solving. If their purpose is to get older vehicles of the road, then they need to offer a little more assistance than just $3500. Or they need to raise the caps, or maybe allow a person to buy a newer model car, but allow it to be used.

I, of course, agree that something needs to be done about the emissions because our environment is spiraling downward, fast. But I don't think this program will do much to help it. I think the state is just creating more problems for itself in other areas.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Teacher's Salaries Increase, But Still Pitiful

Texas teachers' salaries saw the largest increase in 6 years for the 2006-2007 school year. But it's still not enough. Texas is still ranked in the bottom half of the 50 States, at number 33. Yet, Texas comes in second in the number of students that it serves. We are responsible for the education of the thousands of young people in Texas. Yet we pay the teachers who teach them barely enough to live comfortably, if that. It's no wonder that, even though all of these "No Child Left Behind" programs are being put into place, students are still performing below standard level, and dropping out at a scary rate. We need to pay our teachers more for several reasons.

First, they are teaching our future leaders. One day these students will be running Texas and the United States. Either by actually taking office or by voting. We want our country to prosper and grow. We must teach the young people how to make that happen. They need to learn the history of their country, how we came to be. They need to be able to do math, from basic math all the way to "rocket science." They need to be able to communicate efficiently and professionally. Students should also be appreciative of non-academic subjects such as art or music. Our students need to have the best education possible. They will need to be equipped with the most powerful thing we have: education. The more a person knows, they more likely they are to be able to succeed through any struggles. Teachers who are not motivated or have given up because of the lack of pay, will not go beyond to teach students. They will just give them book work and send them on their way. In turn, letting down students by just letting them pass by, without learning much of anything.

Second, these underpaid teachers are teaching our future doctors, scientists, whatever. In order to continue to advance in science and technology, we must have students who are able to understand advanced concepts, and who want to understand and learn about those subjects. They also need motivation and inspiration to encourage them to enter into those types of fields. Teachers who are not paid highly may just decide that it's not worth the trouble to continuously come up with interesting projects and assignments that would encourage students to want to learn more. If teachers decide to teach the minimum requirements, they will be letting down these students, and our future. If students are not motivated enough to go into those types of fields, there will soon be an even greater shortage there.

Also, the small pay may discourage people from becoming a teacher. Being a teacher is a lot of work, regardless of the grade level being taught. From teaching first graders how to read their first words, to teaching seniors how to write a college level paper; or from teaching a student to add 2 apples plus 3 apples, to teaching trig. Every level is difficult, and if a person is all ready struggling for money, they don't want to get into a career that will always leave them just short of comfortable. Currently, most teacher teach because they truly love the job. Soon those teachers may start to retire or leave for better paying jobs. What if there are no more people who desire to teach? There is already a huge shortage of teachers. If a person has a choice of teaching at an okay pay, or doing something else at a good or great pay, they will probably choose the second job.

Less teachers, doing more work, becoming frustrated and leaving. Endless cycle. This is the future I see in Texas education unless something is done to compensate teachers.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

In Response to "Mental Health Patients Being Sent to Austin Emergency Rooms"

In response to my classmate's blog, "Mental Health Patients Being Sent to Austin Emergency Rooms," I would like to agree, and add a few of my own thoughts on the subject.

First off, sending mental health patients to emergency rooms is not a reasonable solution to the overcrowding of Austin State Hospital and other mental health facilities. Emergency rooms are all ready overcrowded and busy with patients who are seriously hurt, and even patients who are just sick but don't have insurance and can't go to a normal doctor. Sending more people to an "emergency" room, will not solve the problem. We are over using the ER as it is, making too many seriously injured patients wait for ridiculously long amounts of time.

Also, emergency rooms are not equipped with the proper tools to take care of Mental Health patients. They will not receive the kind of care that they need. Also, dangerous patients could be potentially harmful to doctors, staff, and other patients. That would be an added worry for employees and patients at the hospitals. Most of these patients need special care, whether it be medications or people who have extensive knowledge and experience with mental health patients.

I agree with my classmate when they say that another bigger hospital is needed in central Texas. I'm not sure why that was not mentioned in the article, besides the fact that it will cost millions of dollars. The building itself would probably be the least expensive factor. The beds, medical equipment, and staff would cost the state millions of dollars. But, I believe that is the true solution in the end, and they are just spending more money on temporary fixes, instead of focusing on the true solution. My mother worked at ASH for several years, and from speaking with her, stuffing in more patients and overcrowding the hospital creates more problems then it solves. Many patients must have their own rooms and need more specialized attention. A bigger hospital would allow for these cases to be handled properly. When cases are able to be better handled, I believe that the patients who are able to be released and live on their own again will be able to recover in a much shorter time. That would also help on cutting down costs.

I also agree with the article that reaching out to these patients in their own homes and outside of hospitals is a great idea. But that is not realistic for many patients. If they are violent, or have no one who can or is willing to take care of them, they must be placed in a facility that they can have proper care.

The sad fact is that there are several more mental health patients than there is room at ASH and other state hospitals. The state needs to step up and build a proper facility that can treat these patients correctly, and create programs that reach out to patients living at home. Pushing the problem off on someone else who is way too busy to deal with what they all ready have is definitely not an answer.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Texas' Top Ten Percent

In Texas, if a senior graduates in the top ten percent of their class, they are automatically accepted into any college in Texas that they choose. This law was originally put into place in order to boost the minority population in colleges. At first glance, the law seems logical, fair, and rewarding. It is definitely an incentive for a student to work towards. Though the law does not allow for differences in schools or which classes a student took. It also does not account for extra curricular activities or other normal criteria that a college generally considers.

Some schools are weaker than other schools. They are easier, and therefore, the playing field is off set. If an average student attends a weaker school, although they may make A's and try very hard, they may not be equal to a student who makes A's and attends a stronger school. Or if a very intelligent student attends a stronger school, they may fall just short of the top ten percent of their class. Both cases are unfair. That is one reason there are SATs and ACTs. If a student does very well in school but makes just an average grade on their standardized test, the college can get a better feel for the student. They can also factor in extra curricular activities or the level of classes they took. With the ten percent rule, there are no other factors. The school looses their privilege of choosing their own students. The school looks at all of the student's strengths and weaknesses, and is able to choose students who will compliment their school. This also allows students who may make lower grades or have a lower score on the SATs, to have a chance at being accepted because they have other qualities that they could bring to that campus.

When the college looses their privilege of choosing their students, the level of the school may also drop. For instance, UT is a very popular school, and many students dream of attending. If most of the students choose to go to UT, then the college's maximum number of students is filled quickly. The school only has a few spots available for students who were not automatically accepted, even if they were better qualified to attend UT. This is unfair to both the students and the school. Some, but not all of those students would have gotten into UT; the rule took away many spots that could have gone to students who deserved to be accepted.

Also, students may "cheat" by purposely going to a weaker school, where the classes are much easier. Or they may take easier classes all together. As a student who took many honor classes in high school, I know how it feels to compare report cards with someone who took regular classes, and who I know didn't work nearly as hard as I did for the same grade. I'm not saying that the person who took regular classes didn't work very hard for their grade, I just feel that the person who took honor classes should be given some kind of credit for challenging themselves.

Another less obvious factor is that many students of lower income schools may still not apply to the school of their choice because of money issues. The application fee alone is $40. Attending college costs several thousands of dollars. There is definitely not enough information given to these students about grants and scholarships that could help with these costs. Without this information, they believe that they couldn't afford to attend anyways, and therefore don't apply or attend college at all. So the minority population may still not even be improving in colleges.

There are many obvious, and not so obvious, points as to why this law does not work, at least not how it is supposed to. I believe first we need to work on bettering our education in elementary, middle, and high schools. Once that is improved, students will have an equal chance to attend any college they want to, regardless of race or percentile. The ten percent rule doesn't fix the minority problem, it just creates other problems. Students need better education, and more information about colleges and opportunities.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

State Debt for Cancer Reasearch

On the November 6th ballot, there will be Proposition 15, "a $3 billion bond proposal that would create the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to distribute as much as $300 million a year for a decade." The Austin American Statesman Article, State asks voters to boost cancer research funding, states that Scientists and doctors say, that with more research, patients will be able to be tested for cancer with a simple blood test, long before the cancer grows. Also, they will be able to personalize treatment for each patient, rather than chemotherapy, the only option currently. Such early detection would increase the chances of survival, and personalized treatment would be much less harsh and more effective. All that is needed is money for research.

There are some critics of the proposition. They believe that the state shouldn't have to go into debt for this research. Senator Kevin
Eltife said, "I think it's wrong to borrow $3 billion and saddle future generations with having to pay that back when we have cash in the bank." I believe that the research is more important than the future generation's debt. The research would directly affect their lives. It would allow them to not have to suffer as many people before them had to. Don't you think that's worth the debt? Don't you think that they will think it was worth the debt?

The other criticism is that other diseases need research, also, why cancer? Heart disease kills more people than cancer. Though, as the article points out, cancer kills many more younger people. Also, there are some preventative measures a person can take against heart disease, in most cases. With cancer, though, sometimes a person can be in perfect health, and take care of themselves, but they still develop cancer. Too many people suffer from cancer, and if we are that close to these developments, why not give research a little boost? Cut the research time down, that research could save a loved one.

Children develop cancer. It's a tragedy to loose a young life to something that may be preventable! They didn't do anything wrong to get it, it is just something that happens. It is a terrible way to die, or a terrible way to live. Chemotherapy is so painful and debilitating, and if there is a way that a person wouldn't have to go through that pain, I believe we should work to find it. Maybe it's because I lost both of my grandfathers to cancer, but for everyone, I think the proposition should be approved.

Also, the research is so encompassing that it could also benefit other research as well. What the scientists discover could lead to cures or some type of developments for other diseases. So I just want to say, Vote. I think it's worth it.

Friday, October 5, 2007

High School Students Working the Polls

In this year's legislation session, a bill that would allow 16 and 17 year old students to work as election clerks died. Students who are not yet old enough to vote would be trained and allowed to work and participate in elections.

I believe this is a great idea. Many students are excited about voting while they are taking government in high school, but are still too young to vote. They should be allowed to participate in some way, which may help the students to keep their interest. Only forty-two percent of 18 - 29 year old people voted in Texas. We ranked 46th in that category! There are only 50 states. That is ridiculous. I believe allowing students to participate and see what it is all about would encourage them to be more involved in their government. I was 16, turning 17 the day after the last presidential election, I was also taking government in High School at that time. My teacher really made the entire class feel that they needed to vote and be involved. I'm sure many of us would have volunteered to work at the polls. Maybe extra credit could even be offered. Or it could be a class project.

The only thing that I disagree with that was proposed is that the students will be required to work for graduation credit. The election only happens once every two years; there are too many problems that could go wrong with that.

One other point that was brought up in the article is that most of the people working those positions right now are elderly people. Once we loose that part of the population, there may not be enough volunteers to run the polls. Introducing students early is a good idea to ensure there will still be people who will volunteer in the future.

I hope this issue is brought up again in the next legislation as it is promised. Students need to realize the importance of voting. That's the only way we can change the government to pay attention to what we want and need, to what our issues are.

I found this article on the Austin American Statesman Website:

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Old Interstates, New Tollroads?

Texas's Department of Transportation is lobbying Congress to pass a law that would allow them to "buy back" parts of an interstate, and then turn them into toll roads. We would have to pay to drive on roads that have all ready been paid for by our taxes. The money would be used as a source of transportation funding.

I live near the new toll roads, but I choose not to use them, except on rare occasions. They are set up differently then any other toll road I have ever been in, in the fact that you must stop in the middle of the road to pay, and then pay again when you exit. Doesn't it make more sense to just pay when you exit? Plus, it is extremely expensive, right now it's $3.00 from the beginning to the end. That's probably why nobody uses them. There's n ever any traffic on them, and they obviously didn't lighten any traffic on our other interstates, like promised.

What are they going to charge for us to drive on roads that we have all ready paid for? Can you imagine the traffic that will be forced onto smaller roads? I believe they will have the same results as with the other toll roads, and force many people to find other routes. Traffic would become even more of a mess, if it isn't bad enough all ready. They should find another way to raise money; I'm pretty positive it won't make it passed the voters. Or at least I'd hope so.

I found the article on the Austin American Statesman website: