Beyond City Limits

A new study by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Justice Policy Institute reports that from 1980 to 2000, nationwide spending on corrections increased at six times the rate of spending on higher education. The study focused on how this funding disparity impacts African-American males. Nationwide, JPI found that over the 20 years, three times as many black males were incarcerated as were educated in the nation's colleges. In Texas, JPI found, at least 66,300 black males were in prison in 2000, versus just over 40,000 enrolled in college. Meanwhile, Texas' spending on corrections increased a whopping 346% from 1986 to 2000, compared to a 47% increase in state spending on higher education. The full report is available at www.justicepolicy.org. -- J.S.

"Let 'Em Eat Plastic": Since his predecessor liked to be known as the "Education Governor," perhaps Gov. Rick Perry longs for the title of "Discount Education Governor." During a school visit last week, Perry generously proposed to "reward" Texas teachers by giving them a discount on the classroom supplies they must either purchase themselves or do without. Can't say he's not responding to the school-funding crisis with a vengeance. Of course, the proposal begs the question of why teachers should have to buy classroom supplies out of their own pockets in the first place. But perhaps the governor is onto something: Maybe future high school graduates can receive their own discount cards along with their diplomas. They can show the cards to employers to help explain why they have passed all the way through Texas public schools and still can't read, write, or calculate well enough to get a decent job. -- Walter Howerton Jr.

Canyon Lake should reopen to boating this week, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. The floodwaters in the lake are still coursing down the Guadalupe River through New Braunfels, but the river may soon recede to normal, safe-for-tubing levels. -- M.C.M.

The Texas Industrial Areas Foundation Network, a coalition of community organizations from across the state, held a press conference Tuesday on the Capitol steps to reiterate their call for state politicians to attend an IAF "accountability session" at the Frank Erwin Center, Sept. 8 at 2pm. The groups plan to bring 10,000 members to the meeting to address "family issues" such as health care, immigration, a living wage, education, job training, and clean and accessible water supplies. All major Texas officeholders and candidates were invited; mostly Democrats have promised to attend, but a handful of Republicans (Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Ag. Commissioner Susan Combs, AG candidate Greg Abbott) will also participate. The activists are still awaiting a response from Gov. Rick Perry, although reportedly his spokespeople say he'll be in Houston that day -- which just happens to be the opening of the NFL season at Reliant Stadium, Texans vs. Cowboys. -- M.K.

In an article titled "Student Loans 101: Ignore Schools' Advice," the Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 27 that lists of "preferred lenders" provided by UT and other universities to students seeking loans "often don't include anything close to the best deal." The criteria used for picking lenders for these lists, frequently posted on universities' Web sites, is "murky," the Journal says: For instance, one lender ended up on UT's list because it provided free software to the school's financial aid department. To arrive at its conclusion, the Journal conducted a nationwide review of lender lists, among other things. -- L.A.

Naked City sends our condolences to Houston, which has lost its chance to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. The U.S. Olympic Committee winnowed possibilities down to New York and San Francisco (Washington, D.C., was also eliminated); the USOC will make its final selection in November. Yet, all may be for naught: In 2005, the International Olympic Committee will announce the ultimate winner, and after hosting four Olympics in the last 22 years, many observers speculate it will be a while before the United States gets to play host again. -- Lee Nichols

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. wants to sell 400 acres of undeveloped land on Eagle Mountain Lake outside Fort Worth and use the proceeds to help develop a bigger park in the Metroplex, a region notably short on protected land. This is part of a statewide plan for tweaking the parks system, but the Eagle Mountain parcel, worth up to $10 million, is the only property TPWD wants to sell. While local leaders -- including former House Speaker Gib Lewis, who lives next door -- want the land preserved (by somebody) as open space, the state doesn't want to rule out offering it up for development. -- M.C.M.

Weed Watch: A poll last week in www.sfgate.com -- the online partner of the San Francisco Chronicle -- reported that 78% of readers favored the city's proposal to grow and distribute medical marijuana to qualified patients. SF City Supervisor Mark Leno proposed the measure in response to the ongoing fed-led raids of California's medical marijuana dispensaries. The measure will appear on the November ballot, reports NORML, and, if passed, would make 'Frisco the first local government to establish a marijuana dispensary. -- J.S.

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