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Anyone who has read or watched the news in the past few months knows that public education in this state faces a fiscal crisis. School districts are contemplating layoffs, closing campuses, and cutting programs. What the public does not realize is that a second education crisis looms, this one involving the state’s colleges and universities. But unlike the crisis in public education, the one in higher education is not primarily about funding. It is about ideology. Rick Perry is waging an undeclared war on higher education—in particular, on the state’s two flagship institutions, the University of Texas and his own alma mater, Texas A&M. He has delegated higher education policy to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based conservative think tank, which has produced an ideological blueprint for how the state’s universities should be governed. The objectives are accountability, transparency, and productivity. Several of the TPPF’s recommendations have already been put into practice at Texas A&M. UT has resisted so far, but the administrators I spoke with believe the battle is likely to be a losing one. Just last month, the UT regents hired Rick O’Donnell, formerly the executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, as a special adviser. O’Donnell’s skeptical view of the value of research is in direct conflict with the model of a Tier One university. In short, the money changers are in the temple, and there is no getting them out.

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