Published opinions by American-Statesman editorial writers for the week of June 9 ran the gamut from commentary on the state’s mental health care to standardized testing. Here is a synopsis:
Sunday, June 9
Already feeling federal pressure to improve conditions in its living centers for those with intellectual disabilities, Texas officials now are scrambling to respond to conditions at a state hospital that cost a woman her life.
Rather than focus on just getting by again, Texas officials should focus on changes that maximize the quality of care in institutions for the mentally ill and intellectually disabled. The first big step will be a top-to-bottom review of the existing administration and delivery of care that is seriously flawed.
Monday, June 10
A point/counterpoint on the pending immigration bill by Thomas J. Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa
Tuesday, June 11
Worries that Gov. Rick Perry might veto House Bill 5 ended Monday when the governor signed into law the measure reforming the state’s high school testing and curriculum requirements. We don’t know if Perry actually had considered rejecting the bill, as widespread speculation had it. If so, Perry settled on the right decision. HB 5 represents a necessary correction to excessive changes passed by the Legislature in 2009 that created the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, exams.
Wednesday, June 12
We called on Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to resign after her drunken driving arrest in April. We stand by that call. But Gov. Rick Perry’s threat to veto state funding of the Public Integrity Unit in the Travis County district attorney’s office unless Lehmberg steps down is political blackmail.
The governor would be acting within his authority if he were to veto the unit’s funding. But just because he can doesn’t mean he should. Lawsuits have been filed to remove Lehmberg from office. They are winding their way toward a trial date. Perry should let the petitions take their course.
Thursday, June 13
This year’s results of statewide skills testing, the STAAR exams, point out the strengths and weaknesses of public education as well as the drawbacks of the state’s high-stakes testing system. It’s another argument for using annual tests more as thermometers — rather than hammers — to measure a student’s knowledge of a subject, so struggling pupils get the help needed to improve and succeed.
When the stakes are raised on tests to the level they are in Texas, where tests alone can prevent a student from receiving a diploma or lead to shutting down an entire campus even when a majority of students meet or exceed state standards, then no one should be surprised that teaching in some subjects is based on a formula rather than on fluency or proficiency in a subject. That’s another way of saying that schools are teaching to the test.
Friday, June 14
Most of us have at least one childhood memory of asking an adult about something and hearing “it’s complicated.”
No matter how old you get, “it’s complicated” remains the default answer to seemingly simple questions like, “Why is Travis County represented by five U.S. House members?” The real answer is really not that complicated, but give politicians a microphone and access to census tract data and they will arrive at complicated in a hurry.
Saturday, June 15
Texas has never had the proclivity for coddling criminals. Few politicians have been punished for adopting a tough-on-crime line in their advertising pitches. But pleasing crowds and governing are distinct arts and require knowing the difference between being tough on crime and being brutal.
A report by the American-Statesman’s Mike Ward in Friday’s editions indicates that the state’s penal officialdom is still sorting out the difference.
If you missed any of those, go to statesman.com/opinion.