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8.5% is the arbitrary benchmark rate set by the Texas Education Agency for the number of Special Education Students in a school district that may receive Special Education.  Even children with severe disabilities, including deafness and blindness, can't always get special education. 

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Settlements, Split Verdict Yield Murky Result in Waste Pit Case

By Matthew Tresaugue
November 13, 2014 | Updated: November 13, 2014 10:07pm
Harris County officials claimed pollution prevented Channelview-area residents from using the San Jacinto River for recreation and commercial fishing.
Harris County's effort to fine businesses for the poisonous paper-mill waste that had polluted the San Jacinto River for decades was a bold move that caught the attention of environmentalists here and across the country. Rarely, if ever, had government tried to enforce violation of state law over so many years.
The legal fight, however, produced a murky result Thursday with two of the county's three targets agreeing to pay nearly $30 million in damages before a split jury cleared the remaining defendant of any responsibility for the toxic pollution.
The county said a last-minute deal, announced Thursday by state District Judge Caroline Baker before closing arguments were set to begin in the 4-week-old trial, resolved its claims against McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp. and Houston-based Waste Management Inc.

The San Jacinto Waste Pits Trial: A Jury Trial Without Key Scientific Evidence

And Now, A Few Words...



Harris County's trial against International Paper and Waste Management for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits' toxic contamination has just concluded. Unfortunately, the jurors had no idea what was at stake. The trial judge, interpreting Texas' rigid, highly exclusionary evidentiary laws, did not let in any evidence of environmental harm.  As a result, it was no wonder the jurors were confused and found 10-2 that International Paper, whose predecessor company generated the toxic wastes, was not liable. (Waste Management, whose predecessor company disposed of the paper sludge with dioxin at the Pits, settled for $29.2 million).
The jury never heard this evidence:
Dioxin is one of the world's most dangerous chemicals.
Furans and other dangerous chemical also were released from the site.
Galveston Bay's fishery has been under a state health advisory for 20 years because of dioxin contamination.
Scientific dioxin fingerprinting shows that most of Galveston Bay's dioxin contamination comes from the Waste Pits.
Years of sampling show high concentrations of dioxin throughout the River and Bay. 
Residents' and businesses' property values are depressed because their soil contains dioxin and furans from a nearby Superfund Site. 
The extraordinary number of nearby residents who are sick from illnesses known to be caused by dioxin.
The jury should have heard this credible, scientific evidence and weighed it against the defendant's arguments and counter-evidence. That would have been a real trial. But under our state's evidentiary laws, designed to cripple toxic torts and other cases based on scientific evidence, we have trials without evidence-- an oxymoron. 
Fortunately, the EPA also has a role to play and will decide next year based on all the scientific evidence the proper remedy for cleaning up the Waste Pits. The consequences are huge for our area. We need your involvement to ensure the EPA's process is just. Please contact Jackie Young or Chris Schillaci at 713-782-8833.

2 Companies Settle in River Pollution Lawsuit

This article was originally written by Matthew Tresaugue, for the November 13, 2014th Houston Chronicle 
Photo By Michael Paulsen/Staff 

EHL in Action!

EHL Grads, Volunteers from U of H, Yale Street Baptist Church and Can Do Houston will come together for the Independence Heights Community Harvest.  This weekend celebration of community service and spirit was  planned by the Independence Heights Collaboration Action Coalition, which consists of multiple Independence Heights Action Groups including EHL grads from the  EHL Independence Heights Class.  The celebration launches with a lot clean-up by volunteers on Friday, then a block party on Saturday, topped with a Food Fair on Monday at the Yale Street Baptist Church. Way to go Grads!  Your hard work in your community is appreciated!


"Why I Vote" Video Contest Winner!

Jenni Reed is the $500.00 winner of the “Why I Vote Video Contest” winner!  Jenni liked the empowerment of voting and the feeling like she was having an impact on her community.  We had many great entries and just like the election, the people spoke and she won! This contest was a lot of fun and we hope that you had as much fun as we did! Keep watching our sit for future chances to win prizes and participate in our community.

Click to watch Jenni Reed’s Entry or all entries!  Congratulations Jenni and thank you to all of our participants!

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

The 2014 elections are now officially over! As a non-partisan organization, we don't tell you who to vote for, but we are committed to raising voter awareness, participation and civic engagement. This year, our election campaign was dubbed "Turn Up, Turn Out to vote." To register as many voters as possible, we hit neighborhoods, college campuses and everything in between. We called past voters and ask them to make a pledge to once again hit their local polling locations and vote. So on behalf of TTEF, I'd like to thank my fellow staff members, our numerous volunteers, donors, interns and of course, you. The voter. 

Be sure to visit our Facebook Page and scroll down for all the photos of our canvassing, phone banking, voter rallies and volunteers that made our #TurnUpTurnOut to Vote campaign a success!



TTEF Intern Marisol Garcia Helps Raise Voter Participation


We were so lucky to have the help of University of Houston-Downtown Education student, Marisol Garcia in our busy office! During election season, we definitely have our work cut out for us, and Marisol lent a hand as we gave our final push for voter awareness and pledges as we approach election day. "I first heard about the internship through someone that works here," Marisol explained. "She encouraged me to call and here I am!" Marisol payed the encouragement forward as a TTEF phone banker. Phone banking is a vital part of our mission at the moment, as it involves reaching out to registered voters and reminding them to vote. Thank you Marisol, and don't forget to #TurnUpTurnOut to vote!


Clean Our Waters: Latest on San Jacinto Waste Pits Trial

October 16, 2014 as opening statements were made for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits trial, the Harris County Civil Courtroom was overflowing with eager attendees. Among those attendees were community members who unknowingly lived by the Pits and representatives of the several hundred Vietnamese Fishermen who commercially fished/crabbed adjacent to the pits for decades. The pain of these people was evident in their faces. We have all anxiously awaited the start of this historical trial and the first week was nothing shy of an opening salvo from the coming pitched battle.

The Waste Pits, created in 1965 by Champion Paper and McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corporation, were discovered by State of Texas officials in 2005 when they found astronomic levels of dioxin in the San Jacinto River near the Interstate 10 Bridge. The Site was then listed as a Federal Superfund Site on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Priority List (NPL). In 2011 Harris County and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) filed suit for 35 years of alleged violations at the Waste Pits from Waste Management of Texas, International Paper, and McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corporation (MIMC).

The Reason I Fight

Today is a very sad day for family, friends, and community members of East Harris County. Early this morning Raymond Stephen, a resident of Channelview, TX, lost his battle to a kidney disease. Raymond was only 24 years old. I met Raymond last winter when I visited him in Baytown’s Methodist Hospital. In the short time that I knew Raymond, his visits to that hospital were all too frequent. We talked about his memories growing up in Channelview; fishing, swimming, and playing in the River Bottom. He even told me stories about having “mud fights” in the Waste Pits as a kid. Raymond was loved by many and it was an honor for me to talk with him and his father. At one of our monthly Coalition meetings, I asked Coalition members to tell me their goals working with the Coalition and Raymond said “if this is what made my kidneys fail so early, we need to get something done."

TTEF Voter Pledge Rally at TSU Homecoming a Success!!

"Turn Up & Turn Out" to Vote!! That was the motto as Texans Together took part in the 2014 Homecoming Festivities at Texas Southern University. In addition to music, food and games, TTEF was on hand to pass out "Turn Up & Turn Out" shirts and voter pledge cards. Even TSU's fun loving mascot took part in our voter rally, as he posed for the camera in support of voter awareness and participation for all!

Be sure to visit our Facebook Page for more pics of this and other recent events!!




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Texans Together Education Fund

P.O. Box 1296
Houston, Texas 77251-1296



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by Dr. Radut