News For January, 2011

Spencer Selvidge

Shades of Burnt Orange

In August, 60 years after the University of Texas admitted its first black student, the school welcomed the first incoming freshman class in its history in which white students were in the minority. The state’s flagship university passed the demographic milestone earlier than some had anticipated, reflecting a similar shift that is rapidly taking place at other top-level universities across the country. While the changing demographics of college campuses may grab the headlines, the more compelling issue is how the growing number of minority students presents serious social and academic challenges for financially strapped universities, even as they are under pressure to boost graduation rates.

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T-Squared: Our 2010 Stats

It was a very interesting and newsworthy year for Texas politics and public policy, so it makes sense that traffic on our still-new-ish site would be robust — but even we optimists at Trib HQ didn't imagine that it would be this robust.

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Callie Richmond

Memories Lost

When foster kids bounce from placement to placement, they leave their belongings with state child welfare workers — where advocates say they often get misplaced, given to the wrong child or even stolen.

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Illustration by Todd Wiseman

Now What?

Texas alternates election years with governing years, with legislative sessions set in the odd-numbered years after voters choose their leaders. There are variations, but it’s got a rhythm: Choose them, watch them govern, choose, watch. The elections behind us, it’s time to see what this particular bunch will do.

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Bob Daemmrich

TribBlog: Big Bend Border Crossing

Alan Bersin, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol commissioner, will be headed to Big Bend National Park on Thursday for an announcement that might please residents of that remote area of the border. Bersin is set to meet with National Park Services staff to discuss the opening of a border crossing in Boquillas Canyon.

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Justin Dehn

Michele Deitch: The TT Interview

The jail conditions expert and professor at the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs on why maintaining treatment programs that keep offenders in their communities and reducing some of the harsh, long-term jail sentences often doled out in Texas' notoriously tough criminal justice system could be more cost-efficient and allow Texas to close prisons.

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Illustration by Todd Wiseman, Brent Hoard/Elizabeth Albert

Unfunded But Vital?

Get acquainted with a phrase that will be oft-repeated in the upcoming 82nd Legislature’s brawls over public education: unfunded mandate. To help schools cope with any reduced funding, lawmakers will look to relax state regulations that create costs local school districts bear on their own or with limited help from the state. But will dropping these requirements hurt educational quality?

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A Taxing Problem

It's not hard to find strange bedfellows in the Texas Legislature when the bills start flying. Republicans and Democrats frequently cross the aisle to support legislation that they feel will help their constituents. As Ben Philpott of KUT News and the Tribune reports, the same could be true as lawmakers try to figure out how to balance the state budget.  

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Bob Daemmrich

The Midday Brief: Jan. 4, 2011

Your afternoon reading: more religious rhetoric in the speaker's race; Texas' clout in Congress; and DNA clears wrongly jailed man

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Illustration by Todd Wiseman

Carter Smith: The TT Interview

The executive director of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department discusses the acquisition of a large piece of remote and rugged land along the Devils River; next steps for the bighorn sheep released in Big Bend Ranch State Park; the threats posed by invasive species like the giant salvinia, an exotic, rootless fern, and zebra mussels — and what the state's budget shortfall might mean for his agency and for the state's lands, waters, fish, wildlife and parks.

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Pay to Pave

The sixth annual Texas Transportation Forum was the largest yet, with contractors, state officials and others meeting to talk mobility in the state. Mose Buchele of KUT News reports on the added challenges they will face this year to keep Texas moving.

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Lamar Smith on the New Congress

The 112th Congress will convene Wednesday with new faces at the helm of a number House committees. Jennifer Stayton of KUT News talked with U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, who will take over as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, about the issues on which he expects to find bipartisan support, the assertion that Americans won't work certain jobs and why he supports a repeal of the new health care law. Full Story