March 12, 2005
School bill not made in Texas

This says an awful lot about the state of our state government.

Many of the proposals contained in the plan that could revamp the way Texas funds schools were penned more than a year ago by academics in California, not lawmakers in Texas.


Gov. Rick Perry; House Committee Chairman Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington; and Senate Education Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, asked the Hoover Institution's Koret Task Force to examine Texas school funding and suggest ways to improve the effectiveness and delivery of education in public schools.

The Hoover Institution, founded at Stanford University, is a research center for advanced study on domestic public policy and international affairs. It's widely described as a "conservative think tank."

The Koret Task Force is made up of Hoover fellows and includes several members who've written books about school reform, accountability and private-school vouchers.

The result of the task force's work: "Recommendations from the Koret Task Force, February 2004," was published in book form last year. Its recommendations mirror the language in House Bill 2, including rolling back local property tax rates, establishing a system of financial accountability for districts, freeing exemplary schools from state regulation and phasing in computer-assisted testing for state-standardized tests.

The report also covers school board elections, incentive pay for teachers and how to budget for textbooks all points covered in the bill.

Cal Jillson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, said state and national lawmakers from both major parties have become increasingly dependent on think tanks such as the libertarian Cato Institute, the conservative Heritage Foundation and the liberal-leaning Brookings Institute, to both craft and interpret policy.

"It's no surprise that conservative politicians will go to conservative think tanks, but there should be truth in advertising. We should know where this came from," he said. "We're really getting a Hoover Institution piece of legislation pushed through the Texas Legislature."

And while farming out extensive research and analysis to experts isn't necessarily a bad idea, it's important for voters to know the source of the ideas, Jillson said.

"The think tanks and policy analysis groups are not there to do public service," he said. "They're there to push a point of view."

Ideology trumps facts on the ground. No wonder the reaction to both House bills has been so negative. We'll see if the Senate is any more reality-based than this. Via Latinos for Texas.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 12, 2005 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack

Ah, good to see Cal Jillson!

The Dallas Morning News doesn't seem to know any other political scientists in the state. It's good to see he appears in the SA paper as well!

As for your own statement that "ideology trumps facts on the ground" -- I would suggest that's a bit intemperate, because it implies that Hoover researchers make a habit of ignoring facts on the ground. Hoover is a respected think tank, as are the other think tanks mentioned in the story. I would suggest their credentials and publications on education policy probably match up very well against most bloggers in this state.

Think tanks frequently push a point of view, yes. The best ones also frequently are involved in policy formation of all sorts. To the extent they continue to be involved, I would suggest it's because they devote resources to those who became expert about facts on the ground, not people who ignore them.

Frankly, I'm surprised at your anti-intellectual/anti-expert attitude, Charles. Or is that just reserved for intellectuals and experts of the "wrong" ideological bent?

As far as Jillson's point on disclosure -- no real disagreement there. But is it really in need of disclosure when it's a matter of public record that Republican state leaders asked Hoover for recommendations? I'd suggest that it actually might help them to market the reforms if they touted Hoover.

Posted by: kevin whited on March 12, 2005 10:45 PM

Considering the source, it's not surprising that HB2 is the way it is. But protest against its origin can easily distract the opposition while the dirty work moves ahead.

The point should that the educational agenda mounted by the Lege, the Koret committee, and the rest of the "conservative" movement is destructive and that the financing enacted by it and HB3 will be unjust.

Talk to the public about what this legislation threatens to do to the state, not about who wrote it.

Posted by: Demo Memo on March 12, 2005 11:37 PM

Outsourcing?! To California?!?

FWIW, I am shocked, SHOCKED, that the Perry administration doesn't think there are enough right wing-nuts in Texas to craft a home-grown Republican education bill.

Posted by: Jim D on March 13, 2005 6:17 AM

Hoover is the base for Thomas Sowell, who writes more widely-published economic nonsense than almost anyone else I can think of.

Posted by: Linkmeister on March 13, 2005 12:25 PM

I reject your claim of anti-intellectualism, Kevin. It should be clear to anyone who has followed this session so far that the House GOP has stuck stubbornly to its path without regard to universal criticism, without negotiating with any of the key stakeholders, and without allowing any deviation from the party line with regard to Democratic amendments. That's putting ideology first. I could have said the same thing without knowing Heritage's input; this story just crystallizes it. Thankfully, the Senate - who, you may recall, unanimously passed a school finance/tax reform plan in 2003, to which the House has never given any consideration - appears likely to use a little common sense.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on March 13, 2005 1:07 PM

If Californians have a good (or bad) idea, why shouldn't Texans take advantage of that in their legislation, using (or avoiding) the idea? Humanism knew no geographic boundaries in borrowing from cultures far away, why should we?

Posted by: B. K. Oxley (binkley) on March 14, 2005 6:35 AM

So, the Hoover Institute Educational Reform is not ideologically driven? Hmm. I looked at the list of members of the Hoover Institute. One name leaps out: Richard M. Scaife, the Pennsylvania multi millionaire who funded the Whitehouse investigations, including Paula Jones' lawsuit in the 90's.
Please, do not say that school finance reform efforts in Texas is not driven by ideology. That would be a lie.

Posted by: T. Higgins on August 9, 2005 7:47 AM