Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Let's Educate Our Immigrants!!!

A colleague of mine, Frankie Volpicella, recently posted a blog titled, “Financial Aid of the Illegal Kind,” commenting on how he believes that illegal immigrants should not be eligible for financial aid, or for in-state tuition in Texas. I have to disagree with him on this one. Illegal immigrants are going to be here in Texas whether we like it or not. It is just part of living in this wonderful border state. We must somehow find a way to get over the negative aspects of this situation and start looking towards the future, and finding a solution to the “problem.”

Volpicella states, “The bottom line is that Texas citizens pay taxes for these schools and in turn receive benefits. Illegal immigrants don't pay taxes, yet are still offered other citizens' hard earned money in the form of financial aid.” What I think may be being overlooked here is the fact that illegal immigrants do pay taxes. They contribute greatly to sales tax as well as property tax. I know that most people who are against benefits for illegal immigrants would love to believe that it’s a free ride for them, but that is simply not the case. According to former Texas Comptroller, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, ““The absence of the estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in Texas in fiscal 2005 would have been a loss to our gross state product of $17.7 billion.” That is quite a lot of revenue, considering that the amount of illegal immigrants that actually attend college in Texas is very low; we should be looking at this objectively.

If Texas were to decide against educating illegal immigrants, I truly believe that the state would suffer greatly as a result. With Texas having such a high level of poverty, would barring anyone from a good education in this state solve that problem? Unfortunately, most residents of Texas living in poverty tend to be of Hispanic origin. So because of this fact, I am almost certain that most illegal immigrants in Texas are not able to afford a higher level of education. Contributing to an undocumented citizens’ education will, I believe, only help the Texas economy in the long run. They will become educated, most likely seek citizenship, and become a taxpaying resident. These educated illegals will most likely begin contributing   to society financially, instead of relying on social services, which have been such a heavy burden for Texas to carry thus far. This could quite possibly lead to a decrease in the amount of poverty in Texas, being that the poverty cycle will be able to stop with this generation, if just given the chance.

Another issue that Volpicella brings up in his blog is the issue of these illegal immigrants who have graduated high school not yet having obtained their citizenship. Volpicella states, “Any parent or student receiving financial aid for their studies should seek out citizenship first. Though the process is known to be lengthy, many students can easily obtain it before finishing high school.” The first problem that I have with this statement is that you must be at least 18 to even apply for citizenship, which would make it impossible to obtain citizenship before finishing high school, if your own parents are not yet citizens. The other problem with this statement is that, unfortunately, these young adults may not yet be knowledgeable enough about the process of obtaining citizenship.  Especially if their parents don’t speak English and are uneducated, they are most likely not receiving any real information about the process. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the following requirements are necessary to obtain citizenship:

·         “Be 18 or older

·         Be a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

·         Have lived within the state, or USCIS district with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence, for at least 3 months prior to the date of filing the application

·         Have continuous residence in the United States as a green card holder for at least 5 years immediately preceding the date of the filing the application

·         Be physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application

·         Reside continuously within the United States from the date of application for naturalization up to the time of naturalization

·         Be able to read, write, and speak English and have knowledge and an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics).

·         Be a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well-disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during  all relevant periods under the law”

Although I do believe that if you want to come to this country, you should do it legally, many illegal immigrants were brought here by their parents. Is it morally responsible to suppress a generation of young adult immigrants? I think not. Let’s make sure that if you are living in this country, you are educated enough to want to be an active citizen and contribute to society instead of being a burden.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Who Leads the Texas Educational System?

The challenges our children will face as Texans will forever be about what we did for them when we had the chance. I want to write about the serious changes that need to be made before my daughter is old enough to realize that she has missed out on an education that teaches fundamentals, that enable her to be an informed and active citizen. Public school in Texas is not going well at any level. Looking back at my K-12 education, I feel like I learned the same thing year after year. Every year would be a review of the previous followed by some more in-depth coverage. U.S History, English, Social Studies, Science. Now the real kicker is that I did attend middle school in Albuquerque, New Mexico for my sixth grade year. In science we were dissecting eyeballs, starfish, learning the elements. I was astounded, and my fellow students were like, ‘yeah we dissected a lamb heart last year.’ I’m telling you, my middle school in Texas was nowhere near that level of education. What’s the problem? Who tells public schools in Texas what to teach their students? So I found out what is really going on.

The State Board of Education has 15 members on the Board. The committees of this board are the Committee on Instruction, Committee on School Finance/Permanent School Fund, and the committee on School Initiatives. Well…that’s it! Can we get a Committee on Let’s Cut the Crap? Fifteen people are deciding the fate of the future of Texas. These members are elected by their districts. According to the website, “The State Board of Education periodically updates the state’s curriculum standards called the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Textbooks and other instructional materials are then written for children based on those standards.” The site also states, “The State Board of Education (SBOE) has legislative authority to adopt the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for each subject of the required curriculum. SBOE members nominated educators, parents, business and industry representatives, and employers to serve on the review committees.”  

An article in the, “Austin American-Statesman”, titled, “About half of the state failing,” by Melissa B. Taboada, informs us about what the State Board of Education and the Texas legislature are doing, or not doing, to solve the educational problems at hand. Taboada states, “Forty-eight percent of schools in Texas were classified as failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards, which can bring down sanctions on schools if they are repeatedly not met.” Apparently U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan gave states permission to file for a waiver to be relieved from federal standards. Texas however, refuses to file the waiver. How surprising! We need the federal funding desperately in this state. It’s time to follow the rules in order to ensure a good education for the children of Texas.

I am urging citizens to get out a vote to make a difference in our public school system and give our future leaders a fighting chance to truly make a difference in other’s lives.

  “America will not succeed in the 21st century unless we do a far better job of educating our sons and daughters… And the race starts today.  I am issuing a challenge to our nation’s governors and school boards, principals and teachers, businesses and non-profits, parents and students: if you set and enforce rigorous and challenging standards and assessments; if you put outstanding teachers at the front of the classroom; if you turn around failing schools – your state can win a Race to the Top grant that will not only help students outcompete workers around the world, but let them fulfill their God-given potential.”

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Re: Welfare and Drug Testing

To assume that people who receive government aid are on drugs is a mistake. That is extremely judgmental and hurts a great deal of good, hardworking people.  Most people receiving government aid are required to have a job or be looking for one; With the exception of pregnant women and mothers with children under the age of five. People who are receiving TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) must start the Choices program provided by the Texas Workforce Commission as soon as they are able. According to the US Welfare Information website, “the TANF grant requires that all recipients of welfare aid must find work within two years of receiving aid, including single parents who are required to work at least 30 hours per week opposed to 35 or 55 required by two parent families. Failure to comply with work requirements could result in loss of benefits.”

There are a lot of people who do work and still qualify for welfare because of low wages and various other hardships. To say that people receiving government aid are unemployed is simply untrue. With the economy the way that it is right now it’s shocking to me that people are actually criticizing someone who can’t find a job in the first place.

A colleague of mine, Seth Arteage, recently posted a blog titled, Welfare and Drug Testing, which supports the concept that recipients of government aid should be drug tested before receiving benefits. I happen to disagree with this idea. In his commentary Arteage quotes U.S. Representative, Jack Kingston, who states, “The screening would not increase federal spending. The estimated cost is $12 per person.” Arteage states that there are “around 333,435 people on welfare in Texas.” So I did the math and found that these drug tests would cost citizens of Texas…$4,001,220!!! Let’s note that, that is just for initial testing. How often would these tests be required? What happens if the individual fails the test? Would they then be required to admit themselves into some state funded drug rehabilitation program? How much would that cost? Would their children be taken away? This brings up a whole lot of other questions and issues that would need to be addressed.

I can guarantee that the majority of people who do have to accept services from the government are not proud of it. To demean them to the level of making them get drug tested is despicable. Furthermore, would requiring drug testing of welfare recipients be unconstitutional? According to the Fourth Amendement of the Constitution:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

If deemed constitutional, then should recipients of Financial Aid be drug tested as well? What about government employees? The taxpayers are, after all, paying for those services as well.