en español: El Innovador de Texas
Teachers Underpaid and Underappreciated
Nothing is more important than education. Our state’s future tax base and fiscal well-being depend directly on a highly educated work force. When I was first sworn in as Comptroller in 1999, I set 10 principles for this century; the first three were all education-related.
My priorities have not changed. My goal is crystal clear—I want Texas to have the most educated work force in the nation.
Last month I updated my special report, The Cost of Underpaying Texas Teachers, and urged Gov. Perry to add my recommendations for our underpaid and underappreciated Texas teachers to the call for the April 17th special session.
Texas ranks 33rd in these United States in teachers’ salaries, down from 26th in 2001. Today, our Texas teachers are being paid 16.6 percent less than teachers nationally. More than 37,000 teachers leave the classroom each year taking their skills to better-paying jobs or simply quitting. Turnover is highest where teacher pay is lowest.
To ensure our state’s economic prosperity we must recruit, reward and retain highly qualified and experienced teachers who are fully certified, well-paid and dedicated to a lifelong career with our most precious resource—our children.
To keep the best, most experienced teachers in the classroom, I recommended:
- giving all Texas teachers a $4,000 across-the-board pay raise now, fully funded by the state, with a competitive automatic pay increase every two years to maintain Texas teachers’ salaries at or near the mid-way point in these United States;
- fully restoring the $1,000 health care supplements to all Texas educators;
- paying $2,500 bonuses to all teachers at low-performing schools that raise their state accountability rankings from academically unacceptable to acceptable or better;
- providing state-funded stipends for quality teachers mentoring new teachers; and
- bringing educators, financial professionals and representatives from the Teacher Retirement System and Employee Retirement System to the table to examine the disparities between the retirement systems.
My goal is to drive more of every education dollar directly into the classroom with the teachers and the students, where it belongs. The return on our investment: keeping good teachers, fewer low-performing schools, fewer failing students, fewer dropouts and a stronger economy for the state of Texas.
Texas teachers are underpaid and underappreciated. We can and we must do better.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Bears know best
A gene that may trigger hibernation could lead to new treatments for diabetes and obesity, according to researchers at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. The researchers identified the gene during a series of experiments on mice.
When exposed to constant darkness for at least 48 hours, the mice in the experiments experienced a hibernation-like state in which body temperature drops and the body switches from an active glucose-burning, fat-storing state to a lethargic fat-burning, glucose-conserving state. Glucose is also known as blood sugar. The researchers identified the molecular trigger for the metabolic change, called 5’-AMP, and determined that the natural signal for the gene to induce hibernation is darkness.
The researchers said that identifying the metabolic signal could lead to 5’-AMP-based therapies for obesity and type-2 diabetes, as well as a tool for rapidly lowering body temperature for surgery or in trauma situations. Current methods for safely lowering body temperature can take hours.
For more information, contact Scott Merville,
Remember the apples
The cliché about an apple a day may be on the money after all. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell say apple juice may help protect against memory loss.
Research shows that something in apples and apple juice prevents cell damage that contributes to age-related memory loss, said Thomas Shea, director of the university’s Center for Cellular Neurobiology and Neurodegeneration Research.
“Many good foods do this sort of thing,” he said. “However, I don’t know that they have been tested against memory loss. Foods like spinach and blueberries have been tested against memory loss and do very well.”
Mice that consumed the human equivalent of two to three cups of apple juice, or about two to four apples each day, performed significantly better in maze tests and had 23 percent less brain damage than mice with a standard diet, Shea said.
“At present we can only extrapolate these data to humans, but these sorts of models are used all the time,” Shea said. “We are planning clinical trials right now, however.”
For more information, contact Thomas Shea,
People who don’t already keep a Web log, or blog, are about to be trumped by pigeons equipped with cell phones.
Researchers at University of California, Irvine (UCI) plan to fit a flock of pigeons with air pollution sensors, a camera, a Global Positioning System receiver and a miniature cell phone. As the pigeons soar through the air, the equipment will send text messages to a computer blog, providing residents with real-time data on air quality. Researchers also hope to gather aerial photos of pollution hot spots.
“We are combining an air pollution sensor with a homemade cell phone,” said Beatriz da Costa, UCI assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science.
The next step is to fit all the components onto one board small enough for the birds to carry, da Costa said. She developed the idea for the pigeon blog with two students, Cina Hazegh and Kevin Ponto.
They plan to release the pigeons in San Jose on August 5, 2006, at the Society for Electronic Arts’ annual symposium.
For more information, contact Beatriz da Costa,
Smoking drags healing
Stopping smoking for just a week or two can help bones heal faster after a fracture or break, according to scientists at the University of Rochester in New York.
Preliminary research by orthopedic specialist Michael Zuscik suggests nicotine may be a key bone-damaging culprit. The nicotine affects stem cells, called mesenchymal stem cells, stored in the bone marrow that immediately move in to begin healing an injured bone.
“The most important steps that occur involving these mesenchymal stem cells happen during the first days and weeks of the healing process,” Zuscik said.
The mesenchymal stem cells transform into cartilage-forming cells and build scaffolding that gradually fills in and hardens into bone. For nonsmokers, the healing process can take about three months. Smokers who break a leg require 62 percent more time—or nearly two additional months—to heal, according to Zuscik’s research.
Zuscik and his team will further study the effects of smoking through a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.
For more information, contact Michael Zuscik,
Compounds in licorice root may help prevent tooth decay, according to researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. An extract from the plant’s root used to make licorice candy appears to slow down Streptococcus mutans, the major cavity-causing bacterium in humans, according to Wenyuan Shi, a team researcher.
The licorice findings were part of a larger study on the benefits of medicinal herbs for oral health applications. The testing lasted almost four years, yielding positive results. Shi said researchers are working towards human tests.
“These active components now have been integrated into sugar-free lollipops, and a human study is being planned,” Shi said.
Shi had no timetable for when human studies are planned. If successful, licorice compounds could ultimately wind up in toothpaste or mouthwash and other dental products.
For more information, contact Wenyuan Shi,
Ants fight pests
Ants that tend and harvest gardens have a secret weapon against parasites that invade their crops—antibiotic-producing bacteria.
A team of international researchers studied a species of ants in Central and South America that harvests gardens of fungus. They found these ants house bacteria in specialized, adapted cavities and nourish their pest-fighting bacteria. The researchers said this indicates the ants, bacteria and parasites have evolved together for tens of millions of years.
“Every ant species [that we have examined] has different, highly modified structures to support different types of bacteria,” said Cameron Currie, a bacteriologist with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and leader of the research. “This indicates the ants have rapidly adapted to maintain the bacteria.”
Currie said the fact the species have coexisted for so long means there might be a mechanism in place to cut the rate of antibiotic resistance, which could help address a significant problem facing modern medicine.
“We can learn a lot about our own use of antibiotics from this system,” Currie said.
For more information, contact Katie Weber,
Sunlight powers motor
A team of chemists from Italy’s University of Bologna and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) designed and built a sunlight-driven motor so tiny that 3.8 million of them could be lined up in the width of a penny.
The “nanomotor” is a molecule called a rotaxane, basically a dumbbell-shaped molecule interlocked with a ring component. The ring molecule slides along the middle rod of the dumbbell. Its motion is created by the action of sunlight on a “light-harvesting” structure on one of the dumbbell ends.
The scientific team behind the motor said that its actions are similar to those in a conventional four-stroke motor, although each cycle of the nanomotor is completed in about 1/1000th of a second. The motor requires no fuel other than sunlight and works without generating waste.
The team plans to work toward incorporating the motors on various surfaces and in membranes. While the motor has no immediate practical use, the team said that it might have applications in the development of nanoelectronics.
For more information, contact J. Fraser Stoddart,
People who’ve been enthralled by the discoveries and pictures produced by NASA’s two Mars rovers have another treat coming in a few years. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology plans to launch a much larger and more capable rover to Mars in 2009. Its mission will begin after a 2010 landing.
For more information, contact Richard Cook,
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, email@example.com
Chemical “cages” created by researchers at Rutgers University show potential for delivering drugs to organs or tissues where they’re needed without causing harm elsewhere. The process combined six larger bowl-shaped molecules with 12 smaller “bridge” molecules. The connections and bridges can be broken and reattached under controlled conditions to introduce and extract drugs or pesticides into the cage.
For more information, contact Carl Blesch,
firstname.lastname@example.org, 732-932-7084, ext. 616
Billed as the “first portable power plant,” a device developed by Manual Power Europe allows users to power their cell phones or flashlights by hand. The rotating gyroscope is a handheld, electronic device charged by the motion of its user. When charged, the gyroscope can power a cell phone, act as a flashlight or hold its charge for later use. The user rotates the gyroscope by hand, creating an electric current.
For more information, contact Manual Power Europe,
www.manualpower-europe.com/EN/homepage.php, +31 (0) 345-633-733
Editor: Karen Hudgins
Contributing to this issue: Angela Freeman, Magdalena Hamner, Ann Holdsworth, Greg Mt.Joy, Edd Patton, Clint Shields, Suzanne Staton, and Bruce Wright