New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - April 25, 1995, New Braunfels, Texas
I ■ Herald-Zeitung ■ Tuesday, April 25,1995
I To talk with Managing Editor Doug Loveday about the Opinion page, call 625-9144, ext. 21
i n I
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Q U O T A B“ Writing requires devotion and a bit of
— Buchi Emecheta, sociologist
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Disaster ReliefFinding the money to aid victims of catastrophes not as easy as it once was
, Disasters—the kind labeled as acts of God and those perpetrated by the hand of man—are taking their toll on the world’s populations.
They're also straining government treasuries and insurance companies.
On Monday, international insurer Lloyd’s of London warned that the 308-year-old firm was under "severe strain.’’
Investors were told, however, that the company would not go under this year.
But they also learned that new claims this year, in addition to a drain on reserves from previous years, will be a tremendous obstacle to overcome.
On this side of the Atlantic, American insurers utilize the Lloyd’s of London network as a re-insurance market. They purchase insurance from Lloyd’s to guard against catastrophe, just like other insurance consumers.
When natural disasters strike, many smaller firms would not be able to survive the huge claims that would be made if they had to pay straight from their own pocket, so their insurance from Lloyd’s helps them survive the disaster as well.
The health of Lloyd’s, therefore, is something every insurer in this country is watching.
In the last several years, American insurers have had to pay claims on Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew.
They’ve also faced claims from earthquakes in Oakland and Los Angeles.
In the Midwest, it’s been flooding—including the devastating flooding around the Houston arca last year.
California was also hit with severe flooding this year that damaged agricultural interests as well as private and commercial property.
Insurers have spent weeks and months on the scene of these natural disasters, but they weren’t the only ones inspecting and assessing the damage.
The government’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also sent teams of workers, helping victims obtain immediate aid and longer-term aid, like housing loans and home-improvement loans.
While the insurance industry in this country is healthier today than it has been in recent years, the same can not be said for the federal government.
It seems nearly every month the President is having to declare a county or state a federal disaster area, entitled to federal relief. This month, Oklahoma City is receiving the attention of FEMA.
What we need to be asking our government leaders is who has declared our federal government a disaster area? With yearly budget deficits and a more than $4 trillion debt, the government may not be able to bring aid and comfort to future disaster sites.
(Today's editorial was written by Managing Editor Doug Loveday)Write us
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tEducation bill shifts power base
Horace Mann wrote, "Education, then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the equalizer of the conditions of men—the balance-wheel of the social machinery.”
Since the 19th Century educator included these words in a report to the Massachusetts School Board in 1848, the nation’s legislatures have struggled to improve public education so that it offers each student an equal opportunity to learn.
The 74th Texas Legislature is no exception.
On March 27 the Senate passed an education reform bill. Senate Bill I by Sen. Bill Ratliff (R—Mt. Pleasant) reduces state control, enhances local control of the state’s school districts and offers parents educational choices for their children. The House of Representatives will consider this bill or an alternate version by Rep. Paul Sadler (D—Henderson), chair of the House Public Education Committee.
The bill limits the Texas Education Agency to specific activities including setting educational goals and graduation standards; granting school charters; managing funds; and developing state plans for vocational, gibed and talented, bilingual, compensatory and special education programs like those for deaf or hearing-impaired students.
Floor Amendment 30 by Zaffirini ensures that students who are deaf or hearing-impaired receive the opportunity to be educated in their unique language
mode. Language proficiency increases their opportunities for success, as it does for all students.
“Providing for the education of our children is clearly the single most important function of government. I have made it a top priority. I am pleased to see the Senate take up the task of reforming Texas education,” said Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock.
The reform bill includes provisions giving local school districts options under which they may operate, in addition to their current general law and special purpose charters. A new home-rule charter that requires voter approval permits the district to set class size limits, but requires compliance with state curriculum; graduation requirements; accountability; no pass, no play; zero tolerance; compulsory attendance; pre-kindergarten; bilingual education; federal law and court orders; teacher certification; finance; and information reporting.
Districts would have the option to modify no pass, no play by providing a 3-week "red shirt” period for a student’s first failing grade report in junior and senior high school.
The bill's educational pilot programs include open-enrollment charter schools created by the State Board of Education on the request of parents. Such schools would be subject only to core curriculum and graduation requirements; accountability; no pass, no play; federal law; and information reporting.
The second pilot program permits accredited free schools in low performing school districts to accept vouchers bom poor students. Free schools may not adopt discriminatory entrance requirements, must provide transportation and lunch for voucher stu
dents and participate in the state testing system.
Free schools are an attempt to combine the best of public and private schools. Every student must have access to a quality education, whether through private or public sources. We must, however, ensure that new programs do not negatively impact the public school system.
Additionally, SB I improves discipline by allowing teachers to remove disruptive students from class, veto their return after a committee review and place them in alternative education.
The bill mandates that students be placed in alternative education settings for assault, selling drugs or alcohol, substance abuse or public lewdness. Students adjudicated for these offenses cannot be returned to regular classrooms by the courts, which may require their attendance in alternative education programs.
SB I also requires that students be expelled and referred to appropriate courts for felony offenses. A court could return serious offenders on probation to school with district consent.
Academic requirements of the bill focus on proficiency in a core curriculum of reading, writing, math, science, and social studies and a curriculum established by the State Board of Education.
Other provisions enhance accountability for state-administered tests and establish new guidelines for education professional certification, teacher appraisal instruments, educators' contracts and classroom teachers’ schedules.
As legislators address educational reform, we should recall George Peabody’s definition of education as "debt due from present to future generations.’’
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Home rule robs kids of opportunities
The concept of home rule school districts is one of the most dangerous ideas to be introduced into this legislative session. Masquerading as local control, it is in fact a dirty little plot to rob children of educational opportunities and to punish Texas teachers.
Home rule advocates advance the peculiar idea that schools will be somehow better if their governing boards are free of all state standards. Never mind that the standards that«are in place have been responsible for demonstrable improvement in student achievement over the past several years.
Home rule advocates want local . school boards to be free to increase class size in elementary grades, to hire uncertified teachers, to ignore the state required curriculum, to eject children from school and to fire teachers without cause, to do anything they want with our children’s education.
Home rule is like a drive-by shuting that indiscriminately mows down every positive education reform that’s been enacted over the past several
Today In History
years. It’s little wonder that this untested idea has not been seriously proposed, much less adopted, in any other state.
Since home rule advocates are careful to mask their arguments in local control rhetoric, often talking about empowering parents and teachers, well-intentioned people are often misled. Advocates argue that home rule will get rid of bureaucratic red tape that stands in the way of innovative local programs. On close examination these arguments don’t hold up.
First, home rule does not empower parents and teachers. The real benefactor of home rule, the group that stands to gain tremendous power, is the Texas Association of School Boards that writes the cookbook of recommended school board policy which is adopted verbatim by almost every local school board in the state. This truth can be easily tested by pulling 20 or so local school board policy manu
als from across the state and noting the similarity from district to district.
TASB has a history of opposing the reforms that have led to recent improvements in education. TASB opposed class size limits; they opposed site-based decision making to involve community and teachers in campus and district decisions; they opposed every single teacher salary increase that has been introduced, they even opposed the pre-kindergarten program.
This group and the local school boards they represent, over whose objection every important standard and employee benefit has been won, will now be put in charge under home rule. Is there something wrong with this picture?
Second, although advocates argue that state standards are restrictive, no one has yet come forward to claim that they had a really innovative idea for an educational program that would have benefited children that couldn’t be implemented because of state law or rule.
Texas already has a very liberal
waiver process. This movement is not motivated by a desire to make schools better. It is a mean-spirited concept that is fueled by the desire to save money.
Texas voters have already turned down home rule in one of its disguises quite recently. Constitutional Amendment 2 on the May I, 1993 ballot called for local school districts to be free of state standards that were not fully funded by the state. The voters said no.
The Constitution of the state of Texas charges the state with the responsibility to provide free public schools. The state cannot relieve itself of the constitutional responsibility by handing it off to local school boards. Thus, the question really boils down to this: Who should set minimum standards for Texas schools, the Texas Legislature or (he Texas Association of School Boards? Our choice is the Legislature.
(This analysis was written by Richard Kouri, president of the Texas State Teachers Association)
By The Associated Press
Today is Tuesday, April 25, the 115th day of 1995. There are 250 days left in the year.
Today's Highlight in History:
Fifty years ago, on April 25, 1945, delegates from some 50 countries met in San Francisco to organize the United Nations. In an address carried by telephone from the White House, President Truman called on the diplomats to create a world body that would prevent the outbreak of another world war.
On this date:
In 1792, a highwayman named Nicolas Jacques
Pelletier became the first person under French law to be executed by the guillotine.
In 1859, ground was broken for the Suez Canal.
In 1874, radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi was bom in Bologna, Italy.
In 1898, the United States formally declared war on Spain.
In 1901, New York became the first state to require automobile license plates; the fee was $1.
In 1915, during World War I, Allied soldiers invaded the Gallipoli Peninsula in an unsuccessful attempt to take the Ottoman Turkish Empire out of the war.
In 1945, during World War ll, U.S. and Soviet forces linked up near Torgau, Germany, on the Elbe
River, a meeting that dramatized the collapse of Nazi Germany’s defenses.
In 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened to shipping.
In 1983, Soviet leader Yuri V. Andropov invited Samantha Smith to visit his country after receiving a letter in which the Manchester, Maine, schoolgirl expressed fears about nuclear war.
In 1983, the Pioneer IO spacecraft crossed Pluto’s orbit, speeding on its endless voyage through the Milky Way.
Ten years ago: 257 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to President Reagan, urging him to cancel his planned visit to the German military cemetery at Bitburg.