Sunday, February 21, 2010

Politics in Texas: Where are the Kids?

It is that time again in Texas where the allergies are high and so is the rhetoric for the governor's race. There are a lot of other positions on the ballots as well including district court judges, congress, etc. The Governor's race is always the most entertaining! This election, we have the incumbent, Rick Perry, who has had a strangle hold on the state for way too long. To give you an idea of what we have "enjoyed" for the past ten years, Texas is number 49 in the nation for services for children. We have the highest rate of uninsured kids, the highest rate of teen pregnancy and the highest rate of high school drop outs. But a current political ad has Perry quoted as saying under his watch, Texas enjoys a surplus of "billions". In the same week as the add hit new frequency levels on the local stations, the Governor and Comptroller issued a call to all State agencies for a 5% budget cut across the board. So which is it? Do we need to tighten out belts or are we flush? If you look at the proposed cuts to the budget, the agencies who provide for mental health care(State Hospitals)may lose a total of 200 beds across the state. In Bexar County,our state hospital already is at capacity most of the time. Where are these people who need long term mental health care and treatment supposed to go? I have a feeling charities will be seeing a larger number of them in their roles. Jails seem to be the preferred provider of mental health care in our state. Recently a friend who works in the penal system estimated that 80% of the people in prisons, including the juveniles, are there due to non-violent crimes that have mental health issues as a base. We tend to invest billions to house the criminals and nothing in preventing the need for them. Bexar county has the highest rate of child abuse in the state and perhaps the Nation. One of the agencies that will need to cut staff is Child Protective Services. Who will stand for the kids? Another infant died this week at the hands of a neglegent young mom. Does the Governor read the headlines across the State? Our Food Stamp eligibility system is so overwhelmed and understaffed currently, people are waiting sometimes as long as 4 months for help. Yet we need to cut staff at this state agency.
It seems everytime the Governor looks to balance the budget, it is the least able to defend themselves that gets the cuts. Children should not be sacrificed for a balanced budget and a Governor's political resume.
I am issueing a challenge to all state legislators for the State of Texas including the newly elected Governor, whomever that may be... you want to make a difference? Stop voting yourself raises in a time of economic turmoil. Take yourself off your health plan and join the rest of us with private insurance and Medicaid and CHIP or nothing at all. Governor, you know how to drive a car, drive yourself around where you need to go. Visit the juvenile probation facilities around the State and talk to the kids there. Look at the rates of teen pregnancy in the state, look at the failure rates in our schools and what TEA expects in the way of paperwork and regulations that keep our teachers from teaching. Take a look at the infrastructure in our State. You are all about bringing business to our State, but who will there be to staff these new businesses if our kids can't write or can't pay attention long enough to make it through an interview? High paying jobs, not unless our kids do well in math and sciences.
Every registered voter in the state needs to send a message this election that we believe in our children, they are a priority. We want there to be options for care for the mentally ill that offer them they ability to get help and become contributing members of society instead of a "problem" to be dealt with. Texas needs to spend on the programs that help draw federal dollars back to the state like the Children's Health Insurance Program or CHIP. Help our kids have a healthy start in life and fund early education for them.
Step up Texas! We have the power to change the future. But we need to make our voices heard above all the special interests and "lobbyists". Register, do your homework and look at what the candidates really stand for. See you all at the polls!
Please share this with anyone you know who will be staying at home on election day!

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