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Lone Star Wars: The Deprivation of Higher Education in Texas

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August 15, 2011

Just a few days ago Governor Rick Perry announced that he was running for president of the U.S. This occurred despite the fact that he declared previously that Texas secession was possible. While the state clearly is no longer being considered for striking out on its own, the mindset behind the declaration is still in place. And for higher education policy in Texas, as well as the ramifications for the U.S. should Governor Perry be elected, there bodes a future of tax cuts nationally combined with spending cuts for colleges and universities. The ideological driver specifically behind Governor Perry’s higher education policy is the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF). Key to the TPPF’s strategy – and Governor Perry – are the “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” designed to change public higher education in Texas. The solutions (and goals) are briefly summed here …

Measure teaching efficiency and effectiveness.

Goal: Improve the quality of teaching by making use of a public measurement tool to evaluate faculty teaching performance that makes it possible to recognize excellent teachers.

Publicly recognize and reward extraordinary teachers.

Goal: Create a financial incentive to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of teaching at Texas’ colleges and universities that will help attract the best teachers from across the nation.

Split research and teaching budgets to encourage excellence in both.

Goal: Increase transparency and accountability by emphasizing teaching and research as separate efforts in higher education, and making it easier to recognize excellence in each area.

Require evidence of teaching skill for tenure.

Goal: Highlight the importance of great teachers by evaluating teaching skill in nominating and awarding faculty tenure.

Use “results-based” contracts with students to measure quality.

Goal: Increase transparency and accountability to students with learning contracts between Deans, department heads, and teachers that clearly state the promises of each degree program to each student.

Put state funding directly in the hands of students.

Goal: Increase college access and make students the actual customers for higher education with student-directed scholarships for undergraduate and graduate education with funding from the state’s current appropriation that goes directly to colleges and universities.

Create results-based accrediting alternatives.

Goal: Encourage greater competition in higher education and more choices for students by creating an alternative accrediting body that would focus on results and the college’s or university’s ability to uphold any obligation or promise made to the student.

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