A quick look at news shaping the state economy
Victoria May Be Site of Nuclear Power Plant
Chicago-based Exelon Nuclear selected a site near Victoria as the location for a possible new nuclear power plant.
Exelon expects to submit an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for building and operating a nuclear power plant in September 2008.
The proposed site is an 11,500-acre tract about 20 miles south of Victoria in Victoria County. If built, the facility would use a man-made freshwater lake for cooling.
“We believe nuclear energy is a key part of Texas’ future energy mix because of its inherent environmental and energy independence benefits,” says Thomas O’Neill, Exelon Nuclear’s vice president of new plant development.
For more information, contact Craig Nesbit, Exelon Nuclear, at (630) 657-4208.
UT Southwestern Wins $5M for Lupus Research
The University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas has won a five-year, $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study lupus.
Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissue and organs, including the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, blood or skin.
“There are a limited number of these centers around the country, so this is a major accomplishment for UT Southwestern,” says Dr. David Karp, chief of rheumatic diseases for UT Southwestern.
Under principal investigators Dr. Chandra Mohan and Dr. Nancy Olsen, the project brings together UT Southwestern researchers from the departments of immunology, microbiology and clinical sciences, along with researchers from the Baylor Institute of Immunological Research.
Approximately 1.5 million Americans have a form of lupus, according to the Lupus Foundation of America. The annual average cost to provide medical treatment for a person with lupus ranges from $6,000 to $10,000 or more.
For more information, contact Erin Prather Stafford, UT Southwestern Medical Center, at (214) 648-3404.
Health Plan Proposed for Uninsured Children
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has proposed a health insurance plan that would use private insurance to cover an estimated 200,000 uninsured children in the state’s child support system.
Under Abbott’s proposed plan, a private insurer would contract with the state to cover this entire group of children. The proposal would not change the existing statutory preference that requires a parent to enroll a child in employer-based insurance if it is available at a reasonable cost. In the absence of employer-based insurance at a reasonable cost, a court would assess whether the contracted plan premiums would be reasonable. If so, the court would order the parent to enroll the child in the contracted plan and would issue an order requiring the premiums to be withheld from the parent’s paycheck.
Abbott is working with the Texas Department of Insurance, the Texas Association of Health Plans, the Governor’s Office and private providers to shape the proposal. The plan would require a change by the Texas Legislature to go into effect, so Abbott’s office is preparing the proposal in anticipation of the 81st legislative session in 2009.
For more information, contact Janece Rolfe, Office of the Attorney General Child Support Division, at (512) 460-6414.
Nine out of 10 urban school districts report a shortage of special education teachers. School districts in Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso opened in 2007 with numerous vacancies in special education classrooms at all levels, according to Texas Teaching Fellows, an accelerated alternative certification program that recruits and trains professionals and recent graduates to become teachers.
Texas Teaching Fellows’ mission is to help close the achievement gap by providing school districts with qualified, effective teachers who are dedicated to working in the schools and districts where they are most needed.
“Since the program’s inception in 2005, Texas Teaching Fellows has helped fill nearly 500 teaching positions in some of the state’s most high-need districts, and approximately one quarter of these individuals filled special education vacancies,” says Mindy Weber, site director for Texas Teaching Fellows in Austin.
For more information, visit www.texasteachingfellows.org.
Technology Dollars in the Classroom
A new book examines how educators can overcome personnel and budget limitations to provide students with the technological resources needed for success in the classroom.
Managing Technology in Our Schools, by Betsy Price of the University of Texas at Brownsville, examines how educators can stretch technology and dollars further.
“For example, electronic curriculum has the ability to present material in different formats for various learning styles,” Price says. “There is potential for electronic formats to not only solve the expensive problem of supplying enough textbooks, but it also means we can more effectively teach with the resources we have.”
For more information, contact Price directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
San Antonio Airport Wins Port of Entry Status
The San Antonio International Airport (SAIA) has been designated a permanent port of entry by the Department of Homeland Security and Customs Border Protection. The designation will allow private aircraft arriving in the United States from foreign countries to fly directly into SAIA and clear customs.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff signed the final approval designation. It went into effect April 7, 2008. SAIA made the request for permanent port of entry status in December 2006. This designation has been a top priority for Smith, the city of San Antonio and local business community.
“This designation will significantly enhance business, commerce and trade relationships throughout Mexico,” says U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith. “The City of San Antonio will benefit from this greatly.”
For more information, contact the San Antonio International Airport at www.sanantonio.gov/aviation/ or call (210) 207-3534.