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A number of stores will open on Thanksgiving

BEAUMONT - A number of stores aren't waiting until Friday to open their doors to customers for the start of the holiday shopping season.

Click here to read the list of 15 stories that'll open on Thanksgiving

Several retailers are opening early Thursday morning while many others will open at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.


TCEQ opposes new EPA proposed ozone standards


The TCEQ is opposed to the EPA’s proposal to lower the primary National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone. The primary standard is proposed to be lowered from the current 75 ppb to a range of 65-70 ppb.

"As a scientist, I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the EPA has proposed these new, shortsighted regulations," said TCEQ Chairman Bryan W. Shaw, Ph.D., P.E. "There is powerful data that casts doubt on whether lowering ozone levels beyond the current standard of 75 ppb will have any significant health benefit. Environmental regulations should be based on good science, common sense and the certainty that they will achieve the stated health benefits. The EPA proposals fail miserably at meeting any of those metrics."

"First, I find it offensive for EPA to make this announcement the day before Thanksgiving without giving the TCEQ, one of the largest environmental regulatory agencies in the world, a courtesy call to alert us it was coming," said TCEQ Commissioner Toby Baker. "Second, if the EPA is proposing new standards based on the best available science, as Administrator McCarthy claims, wouldn't they propose a single new standard based on that science that is most protective of public health? Instead the EPA has proposed an arbitrary range of new standards. If the EPA believes one of their proposed standards is more protective of public health, I would prefer that they set politics aside, make their case and propose it, instead of asking the public to comment on a nebulous range of meaningless new standards."

"Unfortunately this appears to be a unilateral lowering of standards for the sake of lowering standards," said TCEQ Commissioner Zak Covar. "The science is clear that increases in asthma incidences are inverse to actual ozone concentrations. We are missing an opportunity to work with the EPA to research and actually determine the real causes of asthma."

The TCEQ’s opposition to these new standards is largely based on the fact that current scientific data does not provide certainty that lowering the ozone standard will provide health benefits. The TCEQ also has serious issues with the potential cost to implement and achieve a more stringent ozone standard. The TCEQ recognizes and supports the requirement of setting the ozone NAAQS at a level adequate to protect human health and welfare, based on the best available scientific information. However, the agency, as well as several state environmental agencies and other experts, have expressed concerns regarding EPA’s interpretations and applications of the scientific materials used to conclude that a more stringent ozone NAAQS is needed.

The EPA’s own modeling has even shown an increase in mortality caused by lowering the primary ozone design values in the greater Houston area.

Other concerns include the lack of consideration of personal exposure to ozone in the epidemiology studies that are used as the basis for the proposed standard, as well as the critical fact that clinical ozone exposure studies do not show a clinically-adverse effect (by the EPA’s definition) at levels below the current standard of 75 ppb.

For more information on TCEQ’s study of the proposed ozone NAAQS, see newsletter article (http://go.usa./HQkJ) Will EPA’s Proposed New Ozone Standards Provide Measurable Health Benefits?

A study by NERA Economic Consulting recently estimated a more stringent primary ozone standard at the 60 ppb level could reduce national gross domestic product by up to $270 billion per year and have a total compliance cost of over $2 trillion. Many areas of the country are likely to be above the lower end of the standard and are unlikely to have a means to meet the standard in the short term, given background levels of ozone entering a state or even the U.S. (from natural and man-made sources).

Areas determined not to be attaining a more stringent primary ozone standard will be those most impacted. All areas in Texas with a regulatory ozone monitor, or part of a metropolitan area with a regulatory monitor, currently measure ozone over 65 ppb with the exception of Laredo, the Lower Rio Grande Valley area, and Victoria. Based on current data, the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin-Round Rock, Waco, Killeen-Temple, Beaumont-Port Arthur, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Tyler-Longview, and even Brewster County (Big Bend National Park) all have ozone measurements over 65 ppb. The Laredo and Victoria areas currently have ozone design values between 60 and 65 ppb. The impact on these areas could be significant and not only ultimately require more industrial emission controls and expansion of the automobile emissions testing to these areas, but also could impact future economic growth within these areas and beyond. A final ozone NAAQS of 70 ppb would potentially impact not only the current ozone non-attainment areas of Houston-Galveston-Brazoria and Dallas-Fort Worth, but also Beaumont-Port Arthur, Tyler-Longview, Killeen-Temple, El Paso, and San Antonio, based on current data. A final decision on the ozone NAAQS concentration, and the monitored ground ozone levels between 2013 and 2016, will ultimately determine the exact areas impacted by a revised standard.

Harmony Schools agrees to more access to ELL and disabled students

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Harmony Public Schools in Texas, to ensure compliance by its charter schools with federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, national origin and disability.

Harmony operates a network of 43 public charter schools throughout Texas serving over 28,000 students. The Beaumont Harmony Science Academy is located at 4055 Calder.

The agreement ends the Department’s investigation and commits Harmony to providing English language learner (ELL) students and students with disabilities with equal access to and equal opportunity to participate in the Harmony charter schools in Texas.

"Like all public schools, Harmony’s charter schools must be open to all students, including ELL students and students with disabilities, and must provide students with the important educational services they need to fully participate in the schools’ educational programs," said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. 

"OCR will work closely with Harmony as it implements this agreement for the benefit of thousands of current and future charter school students in Texas."

OCR’s investigation confirmed that ELL students and students with disabilities were significantly underrepresented in Harmony’s charter schools compared to their enrollment in the public school districts in which the charter schools were located. 

The enrollment rate of the 1,152 ELL students at the 18 Harmony charter schools specifically examined by OCR for the 2011-12 school year was approximately half that at the local school districts (11.5 percent compared to 22.5 percent) and the enrollment rate of the 273 students with disabilities was even lower (2.7 percent compared to 7.3 percent). 

OCR’s investigation further uncovered admissions and enrollment policies at HPS charter schools that provide that HPS may exclude students with disciplinary problems and also require students to provide enrollment documentation that may chill or discourage the participation of students based on their or their parents’ or guardian’s citizenship or immigration status. 

Not all HPS schools provided translation of admission materials or interpreter services at open house events for limited English proficient (LEP) parents. 

OCR’s investigation also revealed that HPS policies and procedures do not ensure that, once admitted, students will receive adequate educational services, including language development for ELL students and special education and related services for students with disabilities. 

Under the agreement, Harmony will:

  • Review its admissions policies, procedures and practices to identify any potential barriers to increased participation by ELL students and students with disabilities and, as needed and following OCR review and approval, modify its admission policies, procedures and practices to ensure equal access and equal opportunity for ELL students and students with disabilities to HPS charter schools.

  • Develop an “ELL Communication Plan” to ensure meaningful access to LEP parents with respect to student admissions and enrollment in HPS charter schools, including through interpretation and translation services.

  • Implement a comprehensive plan for all HPS charter schools regarding the provision of services to ELL students that appropriately identifies and assesses ELL students for language development services and provides these services to the students; appropriately staffs and provides instructional resources to HPS’ English-as-a-second-language (ESL) program; that its ESL program, ensures that ELL students are appropriately exited and monitored; and evaluates the overall HPS alternative language program.

  • Review and revise existing evaluation and placement procedures for students with disabilities to ensure that students are evaluated with appropriate evaluation materials and that schools properly document the educational needs of students in their records.

  • Collect and evaluate data on an ongoing basis to assess data related to the acceptance of students for admission to its charter schools in order to determine whether ELL students and students with disabilities are accepted at lower rates than other students and, if so, take necessary action to ensure that its admissions policies and procedures are fair and equitable. And,

  • Provide training to administrators and relevant staff at all HPS charter schools regarding revisions to its admissions and enrollment policies and procedures, communications with LEP parents, and language assistance services for ELL students and communication and outreach to LEP students and parents/guidance about admission to the HPS charter schools.

A copy of the resolution letter can be found here, and the agreement is posted here.

OCR’s mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001.

For details on how OCR handles civil rights cases, please click here.

Shooting of FBI agents unrelated to Ferguson unrest

ST. LOUIS (AP) - An FBI spokeswoman says two special agents have been shot in St. Louis County and that the incident isn’t directly related to the Ferguson protests.

Rebecca Wu, a spokeswoman with the FBI St. Louis Division, says the agents were assisting the University City Police Department execute an arrest warrant at 2:53 a.m. Wednesday.

One agent was shot in the shoulder and the other agent was shot in the leg. Wu says neither injury is life-threatening.

Shortly after the shooting, which took place about 5 miles south of Ferguson, authorities from several agencies lined the scene. Police cars, fire trucks and ambulances filled the street with activity and flashing lights, but little information has been released.

LSC-PA Thanksgiving Food Drive a success

The Thanksgiving Food Drive at Lamar State College-Port Arthur generated donations of more than 3,000 containers of non-perishable food for area food pantries.

The final tally of 3,218 containers – cans, bags and cartons -- was announced at last weekend’s homecoming basketball game. Chi Alpha was recognized as the group donating the most – 675 -- for which their prize is a pizza party.

This week, student volunteers packed the donations into boxes, loaded them into a truck, then delivered them to food pantries at the Hospitality Center, the Salvation Army and the Port Cities Rescue Mission.

"We're always pleasantly surprised at the generous response from our students, faculty and staff,"; said Claire Thomason, Director of Student Activities at LSC-PA. "It's always a joy to be able to support the community that supports us."

(Photos courtesy of Lamar State College-Port Arthur)

Photo 1 Lamar State College-Port Arthur students, from left, A’liyah Wilkinson, Warren Moore, Dalton White and Michael Ottley load boxes of canned and dry goods donated to the school’s Thanksgiving Food Drive for transfer to Port Arthur food pantries.


Photo2 : Lamar State College-Port Arthur students, from left, Viridiana Mendoza, Kim Villareal and Brianna Miller join Diana Crutchfield of the Student Activities Department in sorting and boxing canned and dry goods donated to the school’s Thanksgiving Food Drive.

Woman on Jasper County's top ten wanted list captured in Waco area

JASPER COUNTY - A woman who was on Jasper County's top ten wanted list is behind bars.

Officers caught Christina Anne Burnette, 28, in the Waco area Tuesday.

She was wanted in Jasper County for Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle.

The Jasper County Sheriff's Office tells KFDM News it expects Burnette to be transferred back to Jasper County in the near future.

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