By William Lutz
The Coalition for Higher Excellence in Higher Education – a group that supports higher education reform ideas offered by the state’s university presidents and chancellors and has expressed concerns with some higher education reform ideas offered from outside academia – fired a rhetorical howitzer at Gov. Rick Perry yesterday. Political observers in Texas are left wondering why the organization chose to attack Perry by name and how this will play out.
The coalition’s main communications consultants used to work for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and former president George W. Bush, two elected officials whose political interests have not always aligned perfectly with those of Perry. A member of the coalition’s operating committee, former ambassador and Higher Education Coordinating Board Chair Pamela Willeford, said she has supported Perry, and the organization is bipartisan and is about higher education, not partisan politics. She also said that decisions about what statements to issue are made by the organization’s operating committee, not its consultants.
Wednesday, the University of Texas at Austin College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl issued a report blasting “7 Breakthrough Solutions for Higher Education” proposed by Texas philanthropist Jeff Sandefer and supported by the Texas Public Policy Foundation. The coalition issued a statement supporting the report and calling on elected officials to distance themselves from the 7 Solutions.
Perry’s communications director Mark Miner issued a statement expressing disappointment that University of Texas administrators are so resistant to the governor’s cost control and reform ideas. “University faculty and their allies should join the reform efforts and recommend ways to innovate, improve graduation rates, and enhance accountability and efficiency at Texas colleges and universities,” Miner said. “We all have an obligation to meet the needs of Texas students, employers, taxpayers and our fast-growing economy. Resisting reform and accountability is an unsustainable recipe for mediocrity and stagnation. Texas deserves better.”
Some Austin observers thought that finished that story. Read more…