October 6, 2008

Sat Opinion One WA Edit Roundup

By Bill Lee

The Seattle Times, Sept. 30:

Retired Seattle Mariner Edgar Martinez and his wife Holli stand to provide valuable assistance in efforts to encourage more minority students to attend college and steer at least some of them toward a teaching career.

The Martinez Foundation has two goals. First, to get more minority students, particularly Latinos, to choose college by offering scholarships and other help. The second, which is equally important, is to diversify the teachers corps to better reflect students.

Nationwide, minority students make up 43 percent of the public school student body. Of 2.3 million teachers, little more than 10 percent are of color. In Washington state, about 7 percent of teachers are minorities; more than three times as many minorities are students.

This disparity has predictable results. Studies show teachers often fail to connect with minority students. Students feel the disconnect and withdraw mentally, or drop out of school completely. The dropout rate for Latino students is high -- about 32 percent for Washington state's class of 2006.

The Martinezes candidly link this problem to their lives. Holli Martinez says she never enjoyed the confidence of her teachers, a feeling that translated into her own lack of self-confidence and eventually to a decision to drop out of college.

Edgar Martinez likens the foundation's outreach to young Latinos and other minority students as the kind of life-changing opportunity he received with baseball.

The couple plans to work with the Masters in Teaching program at the University of Washington and a similar effort at Washington State University. Local school districts can and should play a role by identifying promising minority students and looking for candidates within their staffs, from teacher aides to librarians, who can add diversity to teaching.

No less than a redoubling of creative and strong efforts ought to be tolerated. The Martinezes light the way.

Addition of Idaho tribes benefits salmon accord

The Tri-City Herald, Sep. 26:

We've all heard a lot about lawsuits over fish, dams and water here in the Northwest.

By now, most of us are either tired of the issue or polarized by it.

But earlier this year something big happened, and the litigation ceased.

Perhaps the two most visible players -- Indian tribes and the federal government -- signed an agreement that should prevent new lawsuits for the next 10 years.

For their part, the tribes -- Yakama, Colville, Warm Springs and Umatilla -- will share in $900 million from the federal government to be put toward salmon restoration.

Idaho and Montana, plus three federal agencies -- Bonneville Power Administration, Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation -- joined in the Columbia Basin Fish Accords, signing a ceremonial deer skin as part of the agreement.

Just last week, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of southeastern Idaho announced plans to join the agreement. Those tribes were the first to ask the federal government to provide protection for sockeye salmon nearly two decades ago.

That's good news, leaving only one significant holdout from the accord: the Nez Perce Tribe, which still holds strong to the belief that the only way to restore salmon is to remove the lower Snake River dams.

Oregon has not joined the agreement; Washington has been supportive and may be in talks to become a more formal partner.

A 30-day comment period is in effect on the Shoshone-Bannock's effort to join the accord. If it is approved, the tribes will receive $61 million for fish restoration and management work in the Snake River.

Parties on both sides of the agreement see it as a positive move, and it is.

What the tribes most want is a return of healthy fish populations to the rivers. Decades of litigation hasn't solved that problem.

The federal government wants a reprieve from the seemingly endless legal battle over dams on the Columbia-Snake system.

It's about time for a change in approach and for devoting resources to saving fish instead of filing legal briefs.

Both sides in the accord need to stick to their commitments and do the work required to ensure a lasting effect on Northwest salmon.

It won't be left to guesswork. Milestones and checkpoints have been set to monitor progress through the next decade.

By the time the 10-year agreement concludes, we're hopeful that its success will be found swimming in the rivers.

Increased numbers of salmon would prove what we've long contended, that decisions about management of the Northwest's greatest rivers are best made by stakeholders, not a federal judge.

If we could permanently focus salmon recovery efforts on the rivers instead of the courtroom, salmon would surely be better off.

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