• Pre-K improvements bill a step in the right direction

    On Wednesday, Texas House Bill 4 — otherwise known as the early education bill — passed with a 129-18 vote. The bill, filed by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, would give roughly $130 million in extra funding to schools across Texas if they implement certain improvements to their pre-kindergarten programs. Schools would have to adopt certain curriculum and teacher quality standards in their pre-kindergarten programs as well as a "parent engagement plan, " according to the Texas Tribune.  

    Huberty was reported as saying, "I want to make sure that we do the right thing for our little kids” when he was confronted by opposition that claimed the program sought to serve more children than those already eligible, namely disadvantaged children and those from military families. And even though education groups have criticized the plan for not going far enough because it did not make any attempt to restore a $200 million pre-K grant program lawmakers gutted in 2011, or require/fund a full-day pre-K program, the bill is still a step in the right direction.  

    When Gov. Greg Abbott took office in January, he named early education an emergency item for the legislative session — this bill is certainly a display of that sentiment, as well as a signal to representatives that measures will be taken to improve the reputation of Texas' education system as a whole. While the bill won't magically solve all of Texas' problems, it sets a much-needed precedent for academic accountability. If the correct measures are taken to prevent the expansion of government that skeptics predicted would be a result of the bill, there is the possibility for bipartisan unification in the Capitol — at least over education issues. 

    Berkeley is an associate editor.

  • Lewinsky TED talk highlights important issue in cyberbullying

    Monica Lewinsky, a name people would associate with a sex scandal with former President Bill Clinton, recently delivered an important speech about cyberbullying. In her speech, she indicated that because of the anonymity of the Internet, it is incredibly easy to say whatever people want to say when they want to say it, as if the same rules didn't apply that normal people have to follow in the real world. But what people say on the Internet can hurt, and ChildLine, a counseling service for children and young people, saw an 87 percent increase in contacts about cyberbullying from 2011-2012 to 2012-2013.  

    Of course, there are laws to protect us from malicious online actions. Kevin Christopher Bollaert, who operated a website called “revenge porn” that allows people to post explicit photos of others without their permission,was recently sentenced to 18 years in prison. Victims of Bollaert's website had to pay a certain amount of money to get their image removed. Punishment to the website owner may serve as a warning to those who want to profit from invading others' privacy. However, the problem lies not only with the creator, but with those who upload such videos as well.  

    Young people tend to care more about how other people see us than what we see ourselves. We constantly check how many likes we get on Facebook and rely on social approval to boost our self-esteem. It is dangerous, though. Most of us have not had extensive life experience at this point, so we are not mentally equipped to handle public shaming. 

    Last year, over 10 percent of UT students sought help at the Counseling and Mental Health Center. From 2009 to 2014, the number of students walking through their doors increased from 3,900 to 5,265. While this could be a sign of decreasing stigmatization of mental illness, it also shows that mental illness is still a serious problem. 

    Kathryn Redd, interim program director of CMHC, revealed the issues that students seek help with the most. The top three are stress, anxiety and depression, which can all be caused by cyberbullying.  

    Identifying a problem is critical. If you notice in yourself a change in behavior, eating habits or sleeping patterns, it is time to start assessing those symptoms and seek professional help if needed. CMHC provides individual counseling as well as a MindBody Lab where students can relax and listen to music. 

    If you are concerned about other students or staff, the behavior concerns advice line (512-232-5050) is the best resource. At the same time, let’s all work toward a friendly and supportive online environment, where, as Lewinsky said, everyone “speaks up with intention, not for attention."

    Liu is an associate editor.

  • What food says about us in an age of global elites

    In his most recent column, Suri examined the divide between local citizens and global elites, characterizing politics in a global age as “intensely local.”

    Food, to take just one example of the difference between haves and have-nots, is inherently political. There are several steps in between the seed and the meal, including production, distribution and consumption. A lot of people outside Austin dictate how Austinites eat. Food is governed by markets, trade, laws, lobbyists, climate change, Congress, the executive and the courts.

    At the same time, the broader politics of food are intensely local. The movement for organic, sustainable foods has become one of the upper middle class. Austin is home to a number of healthy, organic food vendors. But eating “real food” is expensive. Fresh vegetables are healthier than canned ones but come at a higher price. Shopping at Wheatsville is more expensive than shopping at Walmart. Because of these prices, sustainable foods are not accessible to everyone. Whole Foods has no Dollar Menu. Cheap junk food is readily available. This means that lower-income households are subjected to lower-quality foods.

    What makes this paradox dangerous is that food is an integral part of the local experience. Everyone eats food. The prices of food affect everyone. But not everyone can eat quality food and live “sustainably.” Quality food shouldn’t be a luxury for some and a lifestyle for others. This is a fundamental inequality that is present at each dinner table, grocery store and in each dining hall. Suri says that global politics reflect “local expression.” What do the divisions in our access to quality food say about us?

    Shah is a business and government sophomore from Temple.

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