Rick Perry

On Monday, the bill to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students was sent to full committee for review with recommendation to pass.  

To repeal this law would be a mistake.  

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sent the bill to the Senate subcommittee for Border Security instead of Higher Education. This move set up the bill for advancement; two of the three senators on the Border Security subcommittee, Brian Birdwell and Bob Hall, are conservative Republicans elected with the support of the tea party. Of the seven senators on the Higher Education subcommittee, only two are supported by the tea party, and three are Democrats. From the start, the odds seemed stacked against keeping in-state tuition for undocumented students. 

The Texas Legislature’s treatment of this issue is misguided. This is an education issue, not a border security issue. To consider them a threat to national security is insulting, ignorant and foolish. Undocumented students at Texas universities have lived in Texas for at least three years in order to pay in-state tuition, were brought to the U.S. as children and are undocumented through no fault of their own, are good students who earned admission to college and are working hard within the system to make a better life for themselves. These individuals are the undocumented Texans who least deserve yet another disadvantage.  

The opposition to this bill holds the notion that in-state tuition is an undeserved subsidized reward. As tuition costs continue to rise, it’s wrong to think of in-state tuition as a discount. Out-of-state students pay extra. We’ve let in-state tuition be treated in political discourse the same as controversial welfare programs while education budgets have been slashed, which drives up student costs. 

What’s confusing about the move to repeal in-state tuition for undocumented students is that the bill was passed by a Republican-controlled Legislature and was signed into law by former Gov. Rick Perry only 14 years ago. In 2001, the measure was a popular move that empowered undocumented students to contribute more to their communities and the state of Texas. Conservatives recognized that the bill is good for Texas.  

In a speech following the passage of the bill, Perry affirmed that “we must say to every Texas child learning in a Texas classroom, ‘We don’t care where you come from, but where you are going, and we are going to do everything we can to help you get there.’ And that vision must include the children of undocumented workers.” 

As a candidate in the last Republican primary, Perry still expressed his support for the measure. During a debate in Florida, Perry was asked about the issue and defended the legislation that he had signed into law: “If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state … through no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because they will become a drag on our society [if we don’t].” Perry covered two sides of the argument: the moral and the practical. The crowd booed. 

Children of unauthorized immigrants are twice as likely to live in poverty. Less than half of undocumented residents finish high school, compared to 92 percent of U.S.-born residents. Less than half of undocumented residents who graduate from high school have attended college. Doubling or tripling tuition could cause attendance and graduation rates to drop even lower.  

They put in the work. They graduated from the same high schools, they are worthy of the universities to which they have been admitted, and they are trying to become productive members of society with a college education. We should especially want these students integrated into our Texas society. They are pulling themselves up by their bootstraps despite even greater obstacles in their way.  

We should be providing opportunities for the impoverished and marginalized sections of our society. Education is part of the solution to our largest problems. Forcing poorer students to pay more than double to earn a degree decreases their likelihood of graduating. College graduates earn more income, pay more taxes and increase the chance that their children will accomplish the same.  

What happened to the compassion? How has the Legislature in the same state controlled by the same party completely flipped its stance in such a short time? It’s rare that I agree with our former governor, but on this issue, he was right.

Burchard is a Plan II and international relations and global studies senior from Houston. Follow Burchard on Twitter @nathburch.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

This Valentine’s season, there’s been no love lost between Chancellor William McRaven and the Texas state legislature.

Ever since the state of Texas dissociated itself from setting tuition prices in 2003, the cost of attending UT has risen exponentially, falling in line with a worrisome national trend. As a response, former Gov. Rick Perry began to champion a $10,000 bachelor’s degree. In keeping with Perry’s line of reasoning, a number of bills under the Dome this session seek to restore the legislature’s power to set tuition costs, on the grounds that elected representatives will represent student interests better than university bureaucrats. Most school officials, as well as McRaven, fear that such an arrangement would prevent Texas schools from maintaining their top-tier faculty and facilities.

Perry and his lackeys are correct about one important point — college educations are expensive. So are hospital visits, plane tickets and entrees from Franklin’s BBQ. But no one’s demanding price cuts on those goods without first securing other sources of funding. That would require turning MD Anderson into the M*A*S*H tent and St. Louis ribs into McRibs. And any politician pushing such an agenda would get run out of the Capitol so fast that they’d qualify for an NCAA track scholarship, which means that they could at least guarantee themselves the cheap education they’d like to foist on everyone else. 

At the same time, high tuition at state universities is completely antithetical to the original purpose of public education. Before Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, effectively establishing the concept of the state school, he wrote that “by far the most important bill in our whole code is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people,” because “no other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness.” But as it currently stands, the public university system is a major barrier against upward mobility and an affront to America’s equal-opportunity ethos.

And even though he was a slaveowner whose agrarian ideals probably would’ve made him an A&M fan, Jefferson wasn’t wrong that anyone who wants a college education deserves access to one. There are a number of federal programs that help the very poor in that regard, but families sputtering along right above the cutoff point for federal aid are sunk, and even middle-class parents find themselves stuck between sending their kids to college and saving for retirement.

In its most recent price increase, approved by the UT System Board of Regents last year, UT attempted to mitigate that problem by only raising costs for out-of-state students, jacking up their already exorbitant tuition by 2.6 percent. While that’s an understandable approach toward keeping UT competitive without hurting Texas citizens, it jeopardizes the University’s commitment to maintaining a diverse student body. As far as the admissions office is concerned, Texas might as well be a Lone Star — only 10 percent of students come from outside the state. Given Texas’ exceptional ethnic and cultural diversity, that’s not such a terrible number. But if it drops any lower as a result of the price increase, Texas natives might wind up graduating from college without ever encountering a good bagel or a moderate Republican. Enrolling students from a wide variety of backgrounds is an easy way for a school to mold an educated citizenry, and disincentivizing non-Texan applications will diminish UT’s ability to do so.

It’s admirable for Texas to look for ways to keep costs down. But instead of turning its universities into degree factories or cutting into its vaunted diversity, the state should target the underlying causes of tuition hikes. According to UT’s donation webpage, state funding for the school’s budget has declined from 47 percent to 12 percent over the past 30 years. That puts us at a stark disadvantage relative to peer institutions. For instance, the flagship University of California gets 28 percent of its funding from Sacramento. Given that the UC System would likely serve as a model for the UT System under Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to get five Texas schools ranked among the nation’s top 10 public universities, the governor must consider some sort of increase in public funding. Even small-government Jefferson understood the value of a truly public university. Abbott wouldn’t have to abandon his Republican ideals to do the same.

Without stronger state support, Texas universities will have to scrounge for cash in order to meet his lofty goals, either by cajoling donors for Christian Grey levels of financial support or by raising tuition. Unfortunately, the latter scenario is more likely, if only because Texas’s sadomasochistic billionaires typically pour their fortunes into anti-education political campaigns like Perry’s.

Shenhar is a Plan II, government and economics sophomore from Westport, Conn. He writes about campus and education issues. Follow Shenhar on Twitter @jshenhar.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Throughout the long governorship of Rick Perry, which extended throughout the first one and a half decades of this century, a key cornerstone of economic policy was investment funds. Ostensibly, they would provide incentives, subsidies and other advantages to job-creating entities, enticing them to do business in this state and — in the process — stimulating the economy.  In practice, however, these funds were thinly veiled slush funds, in which Perry’s friends and benefactors would all too often receive plush payouts. Numerous audits suggest the economic benefits were minimal.

Accordingly, we were excited to hear that Governor Greg Abbott proposed the elimination of one of these funds, the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (ETF). Since its creation 10 years ago, it has doled out hundreds of millions of dollars. In 2011, the State Auditor’s office penned a scathing report that lambasted the fund’s lack of transparency, prompting many to question its underlying effectiveness. Make no mistake; the elimination of this example of crony capitalism would be good for Texas.

But it was Abbott’s suggestion for the fund’s replacement that truly elated us. The new governor’s plan would take half the ETF money, likely still nearly one hundred million, and forward it into a new fund, named the Governor’s University Research Initiative. This fund, in turn, would provide matching funds for any state university that seeks to recruit well-renowned faculty, namely Nobel Prize laureates and members of the National Academy. There would be an exception for any university that seeks to poach faculty from another Texas school, but anywhere else across the nation would be fair game. Abbott’s office particularly honed in on academics in the so-called “STEM” category of science, technology, engineering and math. 

Unfortunately, Abbott’s plan dedicates the remainder of the ETF money to another controversial Perry-era slush fund: the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF). The TEF was particularly in the news during the gubernatorial election last year, when unscrupulous dealings of some of its beneficiaries came to light. In light of the good steps Abbott took in heralding the elimination of the ETF and pledging more money toward university faculty improvement, we are disappointed to see some continued commitment toward cronyism.

However, most importantly in our view, this proposal shows Abbott’s continued attention on academic and scholastic excellence within institutions of higher education. This sharply contrasts with Perry’s typical approach of treating everything like a business, and attempting to squeeze the most products out no matter the other costs. Abbott understands that the true value of a college education extends to something deeper; something that transcends just the classes one takes. A huge part of that boils down the quality of the professors at the school in question.

Be it his recent picks for state universities’ respective Boards of Regents or this recent action, Abbott has truly blazed a new trail on higher education issues that is markedly different than his predecessor. It is more pragmatic, less ideological and far more centrist. We hope higher education is not the only issue he takes that approach on.

At a press conference Wednesday, former Gov. Rick Perry said he would continue to fight against felony charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant.
Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

Former Governor Rick Perry said his recent indictment will not derail the possibility of a 2016 presidential campaign. 

Perry discussed his future plans at a press conference Wednesday, which he held after District Judge Bert Richardson refused to drop felony charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant against Perry. Perry said he will continue to contest his two felony indictments. 

The indictments came as a result of Perry’s decision to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. In June 2013, Perry threatened to veto the funding if Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg did not step down from her position after her drunken driving conviction in April 2013. The former governor and his attorneys claim Perry’s actions because Texas law grants the governor veto power.

Richardson announced Tuesday he would not dismiss Perry’s charges. Richardson acknowledged that the first count against Perry, abuse of official capacity, was vague and needed to include the word “veto.” He said the second count, coercion of a public servant, needed to better explain how Perry coerced a public official outside his duties as governor. Richardson gave the prosecutors the opportunity to amend their case.

Perry’s attorneys, Tony Buzbee and David Botsford, said they will file a motion with Richardson to halt Perry’s trial, as well as file a notice of appeal in Texas’ 3rd Court of Appeals.

“We anticipate, due to the gravity of the constitutional issues involved, that the court will move swiftly and expeditiously,” Botsford said. 

At the press conference, Perry said he believes he used his power of veto “lawfully and legally.”

“Under our constitution, every citizen has the right to speak their mind freely without political interference or legal intimidation,” Perry said. “This continued prosecution flies in the face of that protection.”

Lehmberg’s behavior was “embarrassing,” “unethical” and “inappropriate,” according to Perry, who said he stands by his original actions that sparked his indictment.

“Given the choice, I would make the same decision again today,” Perry said.

In a statement regarding Perry’s trials, Gov. Greg Abbott said he believes it is unconstitutional to prosecute Perry for vetoing legislation.

“The continued legal proceedings against
Governor Perry conflict with the authority granted to all governors by the Texas Constitution, and I trust they will be ultimately resolved in a manner consistent with the Constitution,” Abbott said in a written statement.

Attorney General Ken Paxton also released a statement supporting the former governor.“[Perry] has treated his office with dignity and respect … ” Paxton said in a written statement. “The Constitutional veto authority of the governor is an important and necessary tool to balance the powers of state government and must be utilized without undue fear of prosecution.” 

Perry’s presidential campaign will be officially announced in May or June. 

“Standing up for the rule of law and standing up for the Constitution is a good thing, and people across the country are very supportive of that,” Perry said. “We are moving right along as we intended,” Perry said.

Vice Chairman R. Steven Hicks at a Board of Regents meeting in November 2013.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

The UT System regents have seen their roles transformed in recent years from often mundane bureaucrat to flag bearer for one or the other side in the ideological battles over higher education. Former Gov. Rick Perry and his ilk, led by Regent Wallace Hall, went on numerous crusades in the past years in search of controversial educational reforms throughout the state. In their grand vision, this University — the state's flagship — would be reduced to a second-rate trade school, as scholastic research would be heavily eschewed in favor of quickly producing diplomas.  

This did not sit well with William Powers Jr., the president of this University, and the battle lines were soon drawn. With Gov. Greg Abbott just taking office, and three regent spots open just next month, we have impatiently waited to see if our new governor would follow the anti-intellectual, asinine choices of his predecessor. 

Thankfully, as a result of his new picks and renomination to the Board of Regents, the answer looks to be an emphatic no. Abbott nominated Regent Steve Hicks, a vociferous opponent of Perry and Hall's antics, for another term on the board. He also nominated David Beck and Sara Martinez Tucker, respectively, to other positions. All three individuals are expected to be easily confirmed by the state Senate.  

According to the Texas Tribune, Beck was instrumental in the creation of the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, a group that has been sharply critical of both Perry's proposals and Hall's conduct. Tucker, meanwhile, served as Undersecretary of Education during the last Bush administration. Additionally, unlike Perry's key picks, she did not donate to the Governor beforehand.

In taking these little steps, Abbott has already changed gubernatorial policy toward this University. His actions appear to cement a desire to transform the UT regent back into the bureaucrat it once was, whose biggest priority is the success of the universities and not ideological bosses or cadres.  

Michael Quinn Sullivan, a right-wing activist who has been among Hall's biggest backers, is already unhappy. In a recent post for his website, Empower Texans, Sullivan blasted Tucker in particular, castigating — among other things — her alleged ties to the controversial evaluation system in schools known as "Common Core."   

Indeed, with such a strong pivot away from Perry's deleterious ways, Abbott will encounter some resistance. But we believe the gratitude he will receive from all of us at this University, who have overwhelmingly opposed Perry and Hall's schemes, will far outweigh that resistance. 

Governor-elect Greg Abbott speaks at a press conference following his victory over Wendy Davis.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Associate Editor Noah M. Horwitz put it well Tuesday in his blog post when he noted the departure of outgoing Gov. Rick Perry’s moderate conviction politics and the arrival of incoming Gov. Greg Abbott’s brand of right-wing lunacy.

“Fast forward to today, and everything has changed,” Horwitz said. “Compared with Abbott and Dan Patrick, the new lieutenant governor, Perry is on the centrist end of his state party.”

The new governor bore him out on this point Tuesday morning. If you want any indication of where Abbott’s moral compass lies, look no further than his inaugural address.

While unsurprising for its policy proposals, including unsnarling traffic, implementing new solutions for drought-stricken towns and lessening the creeping influence of the federal government on state affairs, the “More We Must Do” speech, so titled for the anaphoric exhortations to do more for and better by the people of Texas, was shot through with references to religion, the Scriptures and, surprisingly but tellingly, the modern evangelical anthem “You Raise Me Up.” 

We’ve reviewed each of Perry’s inaugural addresses, and as we suspected and remembered, none were as overtly religious as Abbott’s was Tuesday.

Much was made during the gubernatorial campaign of Abbott’s rock-ribbed conservatism and whether or not it would exceed Perry’s. Abbott has left us in absolutely no doubt about that. If he can be said to have done one thing extremely well Tuesday, it was to have differentiated himself right out of the gate from his predecessor.

We do not grudge the man his religion. He is entitled to it just as anyone else is. But the effects of his infusion of religion into the office could be manifold. As Abbott has made abundantly clear, his religion drives everything. That wouldn’t be such a problem if it didn’t harm the less privileged so disproportionately and lead to policies that skirt the First Amendment. His faith is the justification for his objection to abortion rights and climate change policy, to name just two issues, as well as his support for such overtly religious displays as the Ten Commandments on state property.   

The U.S. Constitution enshrines the right of the people to be free from “law[s] respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The idea was that no one should be punished for not adhering to the dominant religion.

But under Abbott, as well as fellow traveler Dan Patrick, who was sworn in as lieutenant governor Tuesday, we have to wonder even more than we did with Perry whether that will remain true. We fear what this will mean for the future course of Texas politics, because while Abbott is just one man and will only be governor for so long, his actions could have ramifications that could be felt for decades to come.

Only time will tell.

Like him or not, Perry had firm principles

Gov. Rick Perry in a press conference Friday recommended a ban on travel from countries affected by Ebola.
Gov. Rick Perry in a press conference Friday recommended a ban on travel from countries affected by Ebola.

At noon today, Greg Abbott will officially become the 48th Governor of Texas. Rick Perry, number 47, will find himself permanently out of the gubernatorial mansion for the first time in more than 14 years. When Perry first assumed office, Bill Clinton was the president and the average UT freshman was four years old. In the years that have followed — sure to be called the "Rick Perry era" — Perry has demolished all records pertaining to longevity for Texas governors. 

Perry's economic record is somewhat mixed and will surely be muddied by the recent oil glut, which has the capacity to wreck the so-called "Texas miracle." But along political lines, all should be able to agree on at least one of Perry's strengths: his unwavering commitments to his core principles. 

In 2001, just months into Perry's term, he vetoed a record 83 bills from the state legislature. He vetoed obscure bills, big bills and bipartisan bills alike. Compared with House Speaker Pete Laney, a Democrat, and Lieutenant Governor Bill Ratliff, a very moderate Republican who would be excommunicated from his party today, Perry was right wing. Paul Burka, writing for Texas Monthly, opined in 2002 that "Laney and Ratliff represent the old order in Texas politics, Perry the new." 

Fast forward to today, and everything has changed. Compared with Abbott and Dan Patrick, the new Lieutenant Governor, Perry is on the centrist end of his state party. When he ran for president in 2012, the other candidates cannibalized him on his perceived moderation on issues such as undocumented immigration. Looking forward to a probable second campaign in 2016, some have labeled Perry the "anti-Cruz" because of his establishment ties.  

Certainly, Perry has not moved leftward in the past dozen years. At a time when the opposite is typically true of prominent Republicans, Perry has stuck to his guns and transformed from a far-right zealot to a pragmatic establishment type without ever really changing his policies or positions. Like him or not, that's respectable.  

Horwitz is an associate editor.

With five days left in office, Gov. Rick Perry, the longest-serving governor in Texas history, delivered a farewell speech Thursday before a joint session of the Legislature.

Perry credited the private sector for the state’s economic success and job creation. Since 2007, 1.4 million jobs were created in Texas while the overall number jobs decreased throughout the country, according to Perry.

“I have been guided by a simple philosophy: that job creation, not higher taxation, is the best form of revenue generation,” Perry said.

While Perry said economic growth was his focus as governor, he acknowledged a need for improvement in other state policies in order for Texas to remain successful.

“In some ways, [job creation] has brought challenges to our state, straining our water resources, crowding our freeways, stressing our power grid,” Perry said. “In recent years we have taken action to protect our water supply and expand roadways.”

In his closing remarks, Perry said he is confident in the leadership of Gov.-elect Greg Abbott, incoming Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Joe Straus.

“I leave you with this: Be true to Texas, always, and she will be good to you,” Perry said.

The manner in which the UT System governs its institutions could again be a topic of discussion during the 2015 legislative session.

State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, has filed Senate Bill 177, which he said is designed to set a standard consistent with the practices and guidelines of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The mission of SACS is to improve education in the South through accreditation.

“[The bill] is not designed to limit the activities of the regents,” Seliger said. “The powers of the regents are what they are, and this doesn’t change those.”

Seliger wrote a similar bill, along with 11 other legislators, for the 2013 legislative session. The bill came around the same time controversy developed between the UT System Board of Regents and President William Powers Jr.

The 2013 bill was approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but Gov. Rick Perry, who appoints regents to all state university system governing boards, vetoed the bill. In a statement expressing his objections to the bill, Perry said limiting oversight authority of the board is a step in the wrong direction.

“History has taught us that the lack of board oversight in both the corporate and university settings diminishes accountability and provides fertile ground for organizational malfeasance,” Perry said.

Seliger said he is attempting to pass a similar bill in the 2015 session because he thinks it is necessary to set standards for governing boards of regents. Provisions of the legislation require boards to establish goals consistent with the roles and missions of each institution under its guidance, along with establishing institutional integrity. The bill also states that regents would not be allowed to fire a university president before receiving a recommendation from the chancellor.

“There’s very useful standards set down by people at the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools,” Seliger said. “[The bill] was very well received by chancellors and presidents and regents all over the state.”

Barry McBee, System vice chancellor for governmental relations, said he does not expect the legislation would dramatically change how the Board of Regents governs the System and its institutions.

“I would characterize it as more accurately clarifying the role of boards of regents, and, in some cases, it might limit some of the authority or again clarify some of the authority they currently have,” McBee said. 

McBee recalls the 2013 bill having significant support from the legislature, but he thinks things may turn out differently during the 2015 session, especially since current Attorney General Greg Abbott is set to replace Perry as governor in January.

“There’s new legislators in both the House and the Senate,” McBee said. “I don’t know what their views would be on this particular piece of legislation. I obviously would not want to speak for Governor Abbott.”

Gov. Rick Perry and Governor-elect Greg Abbott both expressed disapproval about President Barack Obama’s executive action to reform the United States’ immigration system.

Calling the country’s immigration system “broken,” Obama said he plans to make the immigration system more fair using executive action. In a speech Thursday, Obama announced the U.S. would improve efforts to stop illegal immigration and take steps to deal with people who have already immigrated to the U.S. illegally, including allowing immigrants who meet certain criteria the opportunity to temporarily remain in the U.S.

Obama said criminals who crossed the border illegally must be held accountable. Law enforcement would focus on those threats instead of children.

“We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day,” Obama said. “But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants in every state, of every race and nationality, still live here illegally. And let’s be honest — tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic.”

Obama said he intends to work on passing a more permanent solution with the help of both parties. He criticized those using the term “amnesty,” saying it does not apply to his plan.

“Amnesty is the immigration system we have today — millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time,” Obama said. “That’s the real amnesty — leaving this broken system the way it is.”

After the speech, Abbott, who is currently the state’s attorney general, criticized Obama’s decision to work around Congress. In a statement, Abbott promised to challenge the president in court.

“President Obama has circumvented Congress and deliberately bypassed the will of the American people, eroding the very foundation of our nation’s Constitution and bestowing a legacy of lawlessness,” Abbott said. “Texans have witnessed firsthand the costs and consequences caused by
President Obama’s dictatorial immigration policy, and now, we must work together toward a solution in fixing our broken immigration system.”

Perry was also critical of Obama’s speech, saying his plan would only serve to exacerbate the problem of illegal immigration.

“In Texas, we know firsthand the problems brought by illegal immigration and bad federal policy,” Perry said in a statement. “As we saw with the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors who came across the border, a bad policy led to children being put at risk. The president’s decision tonight will lead to more illegal immigration, not less. It is time for the president and Congress to secure our border, followed by meaningful reforms.”