Texas Standard

From Texas Standard:

Many more women and young children are migrating to the U.S. than in years past. But the academic research about their experiences is limited.

From Texas Standard:

Human trafficking is more common than some may think, and experts say it can take place in an average neighborhood with people who may operate undetected. In Texas, it’s especially common: The state has the second-highest number of cases reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Now, experts warn, it’s on the rise nationwide, which means even more survivors could be looking for help.

From Texas Standard:

On Tuesday, a new Texas Department of Criminal Justice policy went into effect, banning any religious adviser from being in the execution chamber with an inmate. The decision came after the U.S. Supreme Court, last week, postponed the execution of Patrick Murphy, a member of the Texas Seven group.

The court said his execution had to wait until Texas decided on its policy about the presence of spiritual advisers during executions. The state had originally denied Murphy’s request to have a Buddhist priest, which Murphy appealed because Texas had allowed advisers from other faiths to be in the execution chamber. In his opinion, Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that Texas needed to find a way to accommodate all faiths so as not to discriminate, or allow no advisers at all. TDCJ decided on the latter.

From Texas Standard:

Massive flood damage in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey brought attention to some failing dams in the Houston area. Now, it appears the problem is statewide.

From Texas Standard:

The Supreme Court's decision in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple left open a larger question of whether a business can discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community based on the religious principles of the businessperson.

Now, Texas lawmakers want to provide licensed professionals in Texas with legal cover in the event they are accused of discriminating on the basis of the businessperson's religious beliefs.  

Two Bills Aim To Bring Broadband To Rural Texas

Mar 27, 2019

From Texas Standard:

In the 1930s, a young congressman named Lyndon Johnson decided he wanted to do something grand – on the scale of his hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He pushed for rural electrification, i.e., bringing electricity to remote areas that didn't yet have power – both in Texas and across the country. Today, there's a similar urban-rural divide when it comes to broadband internet access.

State senators are considering a bill that would raise the minimum age to buy tobacco products in Texas from 18 to 21. 

From Texas Standard:

Last month, the Lubbock Avalanche Journal reported that though wildfire season typically begins in March, West Texas is seeing wildfires even earlier in the year. As a result, lots of communities have a plan of action for wildfires. But how many Texas communities perform a dry run before an emergency actually happens? So far, only one, the Comanche Trail neighborhood near Lake Travis, has done such a drill.

From Texas Standard:

Though some parts of Texas hit their coldest temperatures of the season this week, overall, this winter has been fairly mild south of Oklahoma -- and wet. That's led to a pretty productive wildflower season. Folks in the Big Bend area say they've seen the largest bluebonnet bloom in decades. And many parts of the state are seeing that bloom slightly early.

Why The STAAR Test May Be Setting Students Up To Fail

Feb 25, 2019

From Texas Standard:

From botched distribution of exams to concerns about so-called teaching to the test, educators and parents alike have been critical of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, standardized tests since their rollout in 2012. And over the past few years, something unusual has been happening: students who are otherwise successful in the classroom are failing the exams.

From Texas Standard:

Ever heard of bartonella henselae? It’s the bacteria behind an illness you’re probably more familiar with – cat scratch fever. What about this one: bovine spongiform encephalopathy? You may know it better as mad cow disease. As you can see, nonscientific names for certain afflictions tend to stick. But sometimes, their meanings may get lost in translation.

From Texas Standard:

Representatives from Texas food banks will gather at the Capitol on Tuesday to talk with legislators about food insecurity and lobby for ways the state can help. Food insecurity is a bigger problem than some may think. The term doesn't just describe people who are going hungry; it also describes people who don’t have the household resources to consistently buy healthy food.

From Texas Standard:

In Texas, gambling is illegal in almost all forms. But you’d never know it driving down Business 77 in Willacy County. It cuts through a rural area of the Rio Grande Valley, but bares a passing resemblance to Las Vegas. It’s a headache for law enforcement, but a remedy could be on the way.

From Texas Standard:

"Unidentified: How Kids Can Age Out Of Texas Foster Care Without Documentation" is a series of reports from Texas Standard about the lack of needed identification documents among Texas foster youth.

In "Unidentified," one foster mom described the crucial role played by her children's attorney ad litem in getting their documentation. That attorney ad litem no longer works in that role. Maya Guerra Gamble is now a judge on the 459th Civil District Court in Travis County. She says persistence was a key ingredient in her success representing foster youth.

"Some of the documents, like a birth certificate, can be very hard to come by," Guerra Gamble says. "When children show up, their parents may not have any of their documentation."

From Texas Standard:

The changing news landscape has been a struggle for many local papers. The Associated Press cites a study that found some 1,800 newspapers have shut down in just the last 15 years. Many of those were community weeklies.

That's bad news for the newspaper industry, but Texas A&M professor Johanna Dunaway says it's also impacting our politics. She co-authored a study in the Journal of Communication that found newspaper closures polarize voting behavior, as evidenced by a decline in split-ticket voting.

With all the talk about property tax and school finance reform in the Texas Legislature so far, one has to wonder — what about guns?

From Texas Standard:

When the 2019 Texas legislative session gaveled in earlier this month, leadership named fixing the state’s troubled school finance system as a top priority – maybe even giving teachers an across-the-board raise.

School districts, especially in rural Texas, are paying attention. According to the Texas Education Agency, Texas has more schools in rural areas than any other state. But when it comes to public policy, big cities can dominate the conversation.

In Texas, Rural Teachers Face A Big Pay Gap

Jan 29, 2019

From Texas Standard:

Texas ranks 28th in teacher salaries, according to the most recent data. Teachers here make about $7,000 less than the national average. But that could change, with some legislators and state leaders talking about an across-the-board raise.

Sounds great, right? Well, maybe not for rural teachers, who can lag significantly behind their urban and suburban counterparts, compensation-wise.

From Texas Standard:

Ever since two important cases struck down gun restrictions in Washington, D.C. and Chicago – rulings that essentially protected gun ownership in the home – a question has remained as to whether it's legal to carry guns in public. But now, the Supreme Court is planning to review a case dealing with that very question; it's known by the shorthand "New York State Rifle."

Adam Winkler is a professor at UCLA School of Law who specializes in American constitutional law and the Supreme Court. Winkler says the case challenges a New York City ordinance that limits where people with permitted guns can bring them into public; they can bring them to specified gun ranges, for example.

From Texas Standard:

We have talked about the influence Texas lost when senior members of the U.S. House retired or lost re-election bids. But what about the freshman members who replaced them? On what committees did they land, and does a freshman committee assignment have any influence on that lawmaker's trajectory in politics? And while we're at it, what will the elevation of two non-freshman Texans, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Will Hurd, mean for the state?

Paul Fabrizio, professor of political science at McMurry University in Abilene, says Colin Allred, a Democratic freshman from Dallas, scored seats on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee and Veterans' Affairs Committee.

From Texas Standard:

Texas is home to three types of oaks: red, white and live; all are susceptible to a deadly fungus called oak wilt. It's one of the most destructive tree diseases in the United States, and it's quickly changing the landscape of Texas – especially Central Texas.

Jim Houser, regional forest health coordinator for the Texas A&M Forest Service, says oak wilt has been an issue for longer than most people probably realize.

'Coerced Debt' Often Follows Domestic Violence Survivors

Jan 18, 2019

From Texas Standard:

Once survivors of domestic abuse are in a safe place, and looking to start building their future, they can face another roadblock: debt. Abusers can use debt to hurt or trap a potential victim. And for many, credit cards and loans taken out under two names, but never paid back, can cripple a survivor financially. It's called "coerced debt." The person who coined the term is Angela Littwin, a law professor at the University of Texas specializing in bankruptcy and consumer protection.

From Texas Standard:

Monday, about 34,000 teachers will walk off the job in Los Angeles – a move described as "historic." It echoes what happened almost a year ago when a West Virginia teacher walkout triggered similar strikes elsewhere in the US. Teachers all over the country are lobbying for higher pay.

Here in Texas, 10 percent of all first-year teachers leave their jobs before their second year. Better pay may be key to keeping more of them in the classroom, and last week, top state lawmakers pledged that 2019 will be the "Year of the Teacher" in the Texas Legislature, promising to boost salaries. But there's still many details yet to be decided.

From Texas Standard:

For years, there's been talk about the growth of the craft beer business. Breweries have been popping up all over Texas to fill a thirst for locally made suds. But it's worth wondering whether we've reached a saturation point. In December, Big Bend Brewing announced it was suspending its operations and Noble Rey Brewing in Dallas just filed for bankruptcy protection.

From Texas Standard:

The next Texas legislative session kicks off in less than a week, and one issue facing lawmakers will be how to address the backlog of about 15,000 untested rape kits. One solution lawmakers proposed during the last session was to give Texans the option to donate to a fund for kit testing when applying for, or renewing a driver's license or vehicle registration. Texans did donate, and the state collected more than $560,000.

From Texas Standard:

Where do tornadoes come from? It's not a riddle or a trick question, although the answer may seem obvious: the sky, right? Evidently, that's not the case.

From Texas Standard:

Many Texas holiday traditions are in full-swing. Some folks hang lights, some will go to a German-style Christmas market. Others will make tamales and attend at least one posada. If you’ve never been to one – they’re like a holiday block party. Posadas are often organized by a Catholic community to mark the Biblical journey of Mary and Joseph as they searched for a place to stay in Bethlehem. Some posadas are huge, others are intimate. But almost all of them include a special piñata. A place many folks in the Central Texas city of Manor get their posada piñata. Is one you’d only find by word of mouth.

From Texas Standard:

The federal prison inmate population is about 183,000. That could be cut by almost a third in the course of one year, if lawmakers on Capitol Hill succeed in passing a new law. Monday, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn acting as majority whip – the number two leader in the Senate – delivered an impassioned speech calling for passage of the First Step Act. It's a first step toward major criminal justice reform.

From Texas Standard:

Weeks before Election Day in November, reports indicated that the Texas Senate race would be the most expensive one in U.S. history. The last campaign-finance report showed that Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke collectively raised more than $100 million.

From Texas Standard:

Frank Vickers of Bastrop was on the couch watching “Jeopardy!” when there was a knock on the door. Before he could get up, a Bastrop County Sheriff's deputy was standing in his living room, ready to evict him.

Pages