Commentary: Texas kids merit talks on rainy day fund, special session

The proverbial “rainy day” has come for Texas. The tens of thousands of children affected by Hurricane Harvey now need functional schools, accessible health care and safe places to live.

Texas cannot wait until the 2019 Legislature Session to act. The children of the Gulf coast deserve an emergency special session of the Texas Legislature that focuses on their needs. Gov. Greg Abbott should immediately call the Legislature back to Austin to use a significant portion of the state’s so-called rainy day fund — which as of 2016 was the largest in the nation — to help the children left homeless, hungry, and without schools by Harvey.

ANALYSIS: Why social media apps are essential to your disaster kit.

Abbott and the Texas Legislature must move forcefully and partner with local officials to create a comprehensive approach to serve and protect our youngest Texans in this vulnerable moment.

As we learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina restoring public schools after a large-scale disaster is extraordinarily difficult. Harris County alone has more than 20 school districts. Even in the best of times, coordination can be difficult. The Legislature can step in immediately to ensure that school districts, Head Start professionals, child care providers, and public charter schools have the resources they need to get students back into the classroom.

Also, the Legislature can see to it that children’s health needs are met. The hurricane is exacerbating an already stressed health care system. Kids on the coast will need basic checkups, vaccinations, treatment for acute conditions caused by Harvey — and access to new medical homes for long-term care. Many children affected by Harvey may also require comprehensive and long-term diagnosis and treatment for mental health needs as a result of the trauma they experienced.

INSIGHT: Why cash, not clothing, is more helpful after disasters.

Children affected by the hurricane deserve safe communities and homes. The process of recovery and rebuilding will be long and hard. Many families will be without permanent housing for months or maybe even years. Swiftly and decisive action is needed to ensure a stable supply of good housing while families rebuild their flooded or flattened homes.

The Texas Legislature must ensure that all communities are safe and clean places to live and free of toxic chemicals. Petrochemical facilities in areas hard hit by Hurricane Harvey may be exposing hundreds of thousands of children to toxic chemicals.

Disaster recovery is not cheap — and coordination of funds is essential for success. The federal government will most likely bear most of the burden. The state of Texas, our cities, philanthropy, the faith community, and individual Texans will also contribute to the recovery effort. Texas has resources at its disposal.

Gov. Abbott, bring the Legislature back to Austin to address our children’s needs and use the rainy day fund for the purpose for which it was named and created.

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: Viewpoints delivers the latest perspectives on current events.

Sanborn lives in Houston and is the president and CEO of Children At Risk, a Texas-based research and advocacy group.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Can Republicans and Dems reach compromise on immigration?

Rep. Kevin Yoder has two daughters, ages 2 and 4. A busy schedule of political obligations requires the Kansas Republican to be separated at times from those precious little people. It’s a feeling many parents know. Those two girls were on his mind recently when we spoke by phone to discuss the fates of thousands of would-be immigrant children...
Letters to the editor: June 18, 2018
Letters to the editor: June 18, 2018

I’ve read stories about babies being torn from their mothers while breastfeeding — and children being taken away to bathe, never to return. I read of a father who hanged himself after being separated from his wife and three-year-old. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and Rep. John Carter all claim to be Christians. They claim to represent...
Opinion: Singapore summit was a historic snooker

The headline writers adore the word “historic.” It was ubiquitous in reporting on the April meeting between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in. Kim shook Moon’s hand and then guided him over the military demarcation line to step onto North Korean territory. This prompted swoons. If that was a bona fide gesture of peaceful intent, time will...
Opinion: A quisling and his enablers

This is not a column about whether Donald Trump is a quisling — a politician who serves the interests of foreign masters at his own country’s expense. Any reasonable doubts about that reality were put to rest by the events of the past few days, when he defended Russia while attacking our closest allies. We don’t know Trump’s...
Letters to the editor: June 17, 2018
Letters to the editor: June 17, 2018

Father’s Day for me is sweet and bitter. I soak up the love and appreciation, the hugs and treats. But I also feel the father’s duty to protect my daughters from harm. We fathers are rapidly losing control over that. I feel for the California fathers whose children’s homes burned in wildfires last year. I feel for the Puerto Rican...
More Stories