Skip to comments.Perry and the Profs - He picked the right fight
Posted on 09/10/2011 9:08:18 AM PDT by smoothsailing
September 19, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 01
If you want a glimpse of the way Rick Perry operates as an executive and a politician, consider the issue of higher education reform in Texas, which no one in Texas knew was an issue until Perry decided to make it one.
In his 30-year public career, Perryhow to put this delicately?has shown no sign of being tortured by a gnawing intellectual curiosity. Hes not the sort of person youll find reading The Wealth of Nations for the seventh time, said Brooke Rollins, formerly Perrys policy director and now president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a free-market research group closely allied with Perry. At Texas A&M he majored in animal science and escaped with a grade point average a bit over 2.0. (Perrys A&M transcript was leaked last month to the left-wing blog Huffington Post by a source in Texas, presumably not his mom. How his GPA compares with Barack Obamas is unknown, since no one in higher education has thought to leak Obamas transcript to a right-wing blog.)
Perry expends his considerable intelligence instead on using political power and, what amounts to the same thing, picking fights with his political adversaries. When Rollins came to Perry in 2007 with a radical and comprehensive proposal to overhaul higher education in the state, Rollins says the governor quickly understood the potential of the issue, not only politically but on its merits. The state operates more than 100 colleges, universities, technical schools, and two-year community colleges, organized into six separate systems. As in other states, public higher education in Texas is scattered, expensive, poorly monitored, and top heavy with administrators, even as it subjects students to often large annual tuition increases without a compensatory increase in educational quality.
Perrys first poke at this sclerotic establishment came early in his first term. He suggested converting the money that the state gives to public colleges and universities into individual grants handed straight to students. Money is power, and Perrys idea was to place the power in the hands of consumers, as he put it, rather than the administrators, to increase competition among schools and thereby lower costs and increase quality. Young fertile minds [should be] empowered, he said at the time, to pursue their dreams regardless of family income, the color of their skin, or the sound of their last name.
The higher ed establishment, led by regents of the University of Texas system, rebelled, and the legislature, well-wired with the systems allies, agreed, and the proposal died. But Perry continued to poke. College graduation rates in Texas are unusually low, and the gaps among whites, blacks, and Hispanics are unusually high. Nationwide 38 percent of American adults (age 25-64) have a post-secondary degree; in Texas the figure is 31 percent. So Perry proposed Outcomes-based Funding, tying the amount of aid a school receives to the number of students it graduates. To keep a school from lowering its standards to increase its graduation rates, he suggested giving an exit exam to all students receiving a B.A. Students wouldnt have to pass the exam to get their degree, but the information yielded by such a testhow much learning is going on around here?would be useful, mostly to reformers. The proposal was seen, correctly, as a threat to the status quo, which has so far successfully fought it off.
The proposals Rollins brought to Perry in 2007 turned on the same themes ofapologizing in advance for the buzzwordsaccountability and transparency: collecting information about how much students learn and how well schools function, and holding the schools responsible for the results. His priority has been putting students back into the drivers seat, Rollins said. Perry said he hoped to apply the cost-benefit logic of business to public higher education. He incorporated Rollinss ideas into a package of reforms and called a higher education summit to build support.
The reforms attacked the establishment from multiple angles. They would require schools to expand their websites to make vast amounts of new information available to students. For the first time, professors would be required to post course syllabi online. To suss out slackers among the faculty, schools would post every teachers salary and benefits along with the average number of students and course hours they taught every year. A summary of student evaluations would be posted too, and the average number of As and Bs professors handed out, to guard against grade inflation. Before choosing a particular school or enrolling in a major, students would be given a list of the specific skills or knowledge that they could expect to learn, as well as the average starting salaries of students who had graduated from a similar course of study.
Perry also suggested separating teaching budgets from research budgets, as a way of encouraging teachers to teach and researchers to do research. Tenure would be granted only to teachers who spent a large majority of their time teaching; a defined percentage of tenure jobs would go to researchers, who would concentrate on pure research. A system of cash awards and other incentives would compensate professors who successfully taught a large number of students.
Any businessman in a profit-seeking enterprise would see ideas like pay for performance as unremarkable, but they overwhelm the delicate sensibilities of people who have spent their professional lives on campus, where the word nonprofit is meant to act as a firewall against the unpleasantness of commercial life. Texas Governor Treats Colleges Like Businesses, headlined the Chronicle of Higher Educationa sentence sure to induce aneurysms in faculty lounges from El Paso to Galveston. The outrage was deafening, especially when university regents began acting on the recommendations. The Texas A&M system, for example, which includes a dozen schools, posted a spreadsheet on its website evaluating teacher performance on a cost-benefit basis.
Very simplistic and potentially very dangerous, an official of the American Association of University Professors said. This is . . . simplistic, said the dean of faculties at A&M. Simplistic, said the Houston Chronicle. A group of former regents and wealthy school boosters organized a pressure group to oppose -Perrys reforms. The group hired Karen Hughes, a close aide to the second President Bush, as press spokesman. The rage at Perry from within the establishment has taken many forms: You think its easy stealing someones college transcript?
The protests might have been more effective except that Perry, for the last decade, has been seeding Texas higher education with like-minded reformers (cronies too). By 2009 he had appointed every regent in the state. The chancellor of A&M who issued the cost-benefit report, for example, was a former chief of staff of the governor. At least three campus presidents have been pressured to resign in recent years, to make way for Perry appointeesall Republican businessmen. A particularly popular (and vocal) vice president of student affairs at the University of Texas was removed and replaced by . . . a retired Marine Corps general.
The appointees werent as pliant as Perry might have wished. The implementation of the reforms has been difficult and at times dilatory. Perry barrels on. In his state of the state address this spring, he urged administrators to develop a four-year bachelors degree that would cost less than $10,000 including textbooks. The discount degree, he said, would be a bold, Texas-style solution to the problem of rapidly rising tuition. (The average in-state cost of a four-year degree in Texas, including books, is roughly $30,000.) After the goal was declared impossible by Perrys critics, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board published a plan to lower costs dramatically: greater use of online classes and open-source course materials, accelerated or staggered student schedules, fuller integration of four- and two-year colleges, and more.
Perrys admirers praise his sure-footednesshis ability to sense cultural trends before others do and turn them to his political advantage. He was the first national politician to ally himself to the Tea Party movement in 2009, a move thats just now paying off. He caught the mounting anxiety among middle-income parents about college costs early on. Most American parents now say that a college degree will be essential for their childrens future success; at the same time, according to a new Pew Foundation poll, only 22 percent of Americans believe that most people can afford to send their kids to college. And 57 percent describe the quality of American higher education as only fair or poor. To address this anxiety Perrys opponents offer more government subsidies, which in turn provide an incentive for schools to raise their pricesan attempt to douse the fire with gasoline. Perrys ideas are cheaper, more comprehensive, more imaginative, and more likely to work.
And they have a good chance of being put into action. In late August, Perry scored another significant, if partial, victory. The University of Texas regents approved an action plan proposed by the systems chancellor, who isnt a Perry appointee. The plan is a compromise, but it incorporates many of Perrys ideas, including some of the most radical, such as pay for performance and learning contracts between schools and their students. Amazingly, the plan has won support from both the right (Brooke Rollinss Texas Public Policy Foundation) and left (Karen Hughess group).
Reforms like these would have been unthinkable 10 years ago, before Perry picked up his stick and started poking the system until it had to respond. Its been a remarkable display of political entrepreneurship: Create an issue, define it on your terms, cultivate public support, and your opponents, who never saw it coming, will have to go along, even if only partwayat first.
Andrew Ferguson is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard and the author, most recently, of Crazy U: One Dads Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College.
You are only off by a mere 50%. I have been paying for college for four straight years at two different schools and it is between $15-$18,000.
I like Gov. Perry’s ideas and his grasp of so many government choke points.
Lawsuits and Regulations
I’ll take a pass on your Perry bashing.
hey, *I* didn’t write the article !!!
Originally, I thought he was referring to an annual cost that seemed mighty steep for a state school. Then decided to look further and run comparables to other state university systems’ flagships. Not a HUGE difference among them.
Still, if Perry can push down the costs AND improve outcomes, and there are lots of ways in this day and age to do that, more power to him! Certainly he’s begun ‘the conversation’ that needs to be held.
I still can’t get over the cost of textbooks. OMG. One son is taking a physics class at a local community college, and I made reference to the textbook costing $100. He could barely stop laughing at me.
You're far too sensitive, you don't mind trashing a man you don't even know, but when you're criticized for it, you think you're being insulted and get you get your nose all out of joint. Talk about telling!
I won't bother you anymore.
Carry on, Carry_Okie.
Unfortunately, I am not enamored of his solutions.
Ill take a pass on your Perry bashing.
"Bashing" now is it? Look, I've explained to you what is wrong about this proposal. I have shown you a superior alternative. In fact, I've been proposing serious alternatives on this forum for over a decade. You have yet to address the content. Instead, simply because you don't take the time to really think about it, you are bashing. Grow up.
A State testing system requires administration. That takes bureaucracy over which the governor would have little direct control when it comes to testing content. Said bureaucracy would then implement the real agenda. If you want to sit there with your soft focus rose colored glasses on while ogling over the pitch and don't want to think about details or consequences, that's your business, but don't get all uppity when somebody points out the obvious.
I don't care who the candidate is. Had Rick Perry proposed something workable toward the expression of liberty, much less truly innovative, I'd have said so. I don't think he will. What my post above shows is how easy it is to fix this mess and yet NO politician wants do it simply because it is removal of State power over student learning while assuring the customer of said product that it WILL meet expectations, something NO political proposal of which I am aware even purports to do. What is truly sad is that you just won't get it.
And I don’t like your tone.
So even though Governor Perry is making some headway, but it's not good enough for you, we should just cast him aside and wait for some perfect savior who has yet to arrive?
Instead of addressing the content, you have to attack me by painting me as unreasonable, shallow, and flippant. Nice job. Stupid, but typical. So, when you get a reply that is, frankly, more polite than yours, you attack it as an insult?
Deal with the content. The reality is that Perry's proposal here is that it proposes more centralized command and control of a system that needs said control devolved to customers. Centralized control is easily subordinated to the Federal Department of Education and thence the UN. What would you do then?
And you’re arrogant to boot!
Never mind accountability.
Really? No, you just don't like your crap handed back to you for what it is. When is smells bad you blame the delivery boy.
Lol, I've been making serious, systemic, and innovative proposals on educational reform since long before Rick Perry came on the national political scene.
Education Policy Components
Education is the most critical issue in California, more serious than even the budget crisis. When Gray Davis first ran for Governor, he promised that Education was to be his highest three priorities, but instead Mr. Davis has shown us what they really were all along: Re-Election, Re-Election, and Re-Election. What were the results? Education spending per student has increased nearly 30%, while classroom performance remains relatively unimproved and at the bottom of a nation producing a third rate primary and secondary education product. The system is broken and the State is nearly bankrupt. So what can we do?
One answer is to free Californias teachers from the overwhelming power of national unions. Teachers should have a choice whether or not to support an often radical political agenda. Unlike Gray Davis, if you elect me Governor of California, I will enforce the law that prohibits unions from requiring campaign contributions in dues payments without teachers permission (Beck (487 US 735), 1988).
Second, we must reverse the trend toward large unified school districts that has effectively excluded parents from affecting public school decisions. The purpose of consolidation was supposedly to reduce the cost of overhead through economies of scale and to strengthen the districts collective bargaining power, but that isnt how it has turned out. Instead, district bureaucracies have become enormous and the resulting issues are so complex that parents are pushed aside by an organizational machine controlled by union lawyers.
I plan to assist formation of corporate service associations for school districts so that they can divest operations into smaller, more personalized institutions while retaining the organizational muscle to deal with the unions. Smaller school districts will give parents a stronger voice on district boards over the issues that matter to them. The principle need to make this possible is to develop programs for children with special needs. Here is where can turn to parents for solutions.
Some would argue that parents on local School Boards arent qualified to make administrative decisions about public education, especially over programs for children with developmental challenges. So, Id like to talk about an education success-story that not only proves that argument wrong, it points toward a total transformation in public education.
Home education is enjoying a renaissance in America, and religious freedom isnt the principle reason. Parents are choosing to home school to assure educational excellence for their children, whose learning habits they know best. A family bond of patience and discipline is a critical factor in student success, especially in a challenging situation. What many people don't know about home-schools is that they have a high percentage of students with genetic, behavioral, and developmental disabilities that had often been poorly served by public institutions. Even with that statistical disadvantage, SAT, ACT, and STAR test scores strongly indicate that home education is producing superior results across the entire spectrum of individual ability.
So parents ARE competent to make choices about their childrens education, and home schools successfully manage nearly every type of specialized educational problem. So what are they doing right that we can apply to public institutions?
As home-educators have grown in number, they have been organizing into loosely knit education cooperatives that point to a new form of public education: a decentralized, customer-oriented network for lifelong learning, using products customized to meet individual interests and abilities. That promises what 21st Century public education could really become: a multi-disciplinary market of customized learning products and services.
We are already starting to see the effects of this change. Software and curriculum companies are finding a growing market of customers committed to gaining competitive advantage. Colleges and universities are offering online degrees because they need superior students to assure productive alumnae. Superior teachers could get rich transmitting their ideas and methods to a mass-market. Where better to develop those products and sell them to the world than California?
We can use private and home education as if they were R&D laboratories developing and testing proven learning tools and services. Public school parents on school boards could then select those products that the State would fund for use in public schools. It is a gradual transformation, from experimenting on our children with untested academic theories, to contracting for innovative tools and methods that have been proven in the marketplace.
All we have to do is let it happen and keep government from regulating new educational methods out of existence. If you elect me Governor, that is what I will do. Federal education dollars arent worth the price of Federal control and bureaucratic requirements. Private and home education both leave the State with more money to spend per-child and provide a competitive incentive for public schools to keep their customers.
Together, lets help California rise from the ashes of a broken system and lead the way once again, into a world of exciting possibilities for our children.
15 posted on Saturday, April 19, 2003 9:34:27 PM by Carry_Okie (California - See how low WE can go!)
This whole harangue of yours reminds me of SOME of the reaction I got when I shot down Dick Pombo's "reform" of the ESA, yet for the most part it was positive because FR was a different place in those days, sigh. Just because the guy is "on our side" does not mean that what he is proposing is a good thing. Like I said on that thread, "If it's broke, don't fix it." They should devolve the powers that got us into the hole in the first place.
Look what happened: George W. got into office and who'da thunk it but he did a deal with TEDDY KENNEDY for No Child Left Alone, er "Behind." Yes indeed, now the DOE has the power to test children to see if their "tolerance education" is up to snuff, nationwide!! Great idea.
So don't get all huffy when I see Perry doing the same things and don't exactly get enamored with the underlying principle: centralized command and control. Somehow, it's been a bad thing for securing the blessings of liberty every time it's been tried, regardless of how pleasing the pitch may have sounded.
So now that you've tried to push the same thing and had it handed back to you, well, thanks for the opportunity to make things clearer. Over time, the far cheaper and far more effective alternatives to increasing state control will become more obvious.
From Austin and now Madison, what will the poor commie profs do? Next thing it’ll be BERKLEY (Not).
Perry did this discreetly, so as not to empower the screamers. Hope it works for Scott.
College reform, Tort reform, nobamacare reform, good ol common sense “get it done” reform is what Perry will bring to FedGov. He’s been good for Texas, but I guess we shouldn’t begrudge our loss for the good of America.
My next question, what will Dewhurst be like as Governor?
That didn't happen, those are your words.
So even though Governor Perry is making some headway, but it's not good enough for you, we should just cast him aside and wait for some perfect savior who has yet to arrive?
Those words, my words, were in the form of a question, not an insult or even an accusation. They required an answer or they required being ignored, throwing a fit about them was uncalled for. Like I said, you're far too sensitive.
The more people learn of this the more his poll numbers will grow.
Well, smooth, I spoke too soon about the PDS coyotes.
Looks like this caryokie is some important biggie, he clams to write speeches and looks likes he’s written a few here for Mutt or RON. Maybe is just an audition and we are just practice.
I asked you once before if you have all these theories and ideas, why don’t you get where you have more clout.
Run for office. Perhaps work with people.
Let’s just cut to the chase.
Who is your preferred candidate right now?