Texans need to keep a close eye on state Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and Republican Lt. Governor David Dewhurst.
Currently Sen. Zaffirini is lead blocking for anti-transparency in spending at Texas state universities. While taxpayers are asking for clearer answers to how money is being used Zaffirini is conjuring up conspiracy theories about meddlesome regents to distract and sideline the reform efforts. Zaffirini, a liberal Democrat, has the backing of a Republican Lt. Governor.
Last week Zaffirini told the Austin American Statesman public university boards of regents merit close watch for up to six years. In reality it's Zaffirini and her cohorts who need close watch. Her reason for the extra attention is a belief the regents are part of a grand scheme to fundamentally alter higher education in Texas.
It all depends on what she means. If by "fundamentally alter" she means make higher education more affordable and hold professors accountable for teaching and research, the regents would almost assuredly agree. This week has seen two reports that strongly suggest the need fundamental changes to how our universities are run. The first revealed workloads at UT vary widely; a small portion of the faculty does most of the work. The second report revealed universities are failing to provide graduates with a high-quality education.
The regents are trying to address these and other issues. They have requested information in order to discover efficiencies in savings and room for academic improvements. They have been met with grandstanding accusations from Zaffirini and internal pressure from the state bureaucrat laden university systems. The interesting thing about this scenario is it could be short circuited.
Zaffirini is Lt. Governor David Dewhurst’s Higher Ed Chair. Increasingly, as the Senator revs up her rhetoric, it looks like Dewhurst is taking the side of liberals, while Governor Rick Perry and conservatives are siding with cost savings and efficiency measures.
As anticipated, Zaffirini is using her position as the head of the Senate Higher Education committee to protect the status quo culture at Texas universities.
Her counterpart in the house, Dan Branch, may be realizing the folly of sticking with the status quo in higher education. He has yet to take a definitive position on the matter, though his commitments to reducing tuition costs on his own website cut in the direction of Perry and the regents.
It’s up to David Dehurst how much conservative market share he wants to open up to Ted Cruz through his handling of his Higher Ed Chair Judith Zaffirini.
--Austin American Statesman article reflecting Zaffirni's misdirection.