by Reeve Hamilton | Texas Tribune
May 6, 2011
Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have created a new Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence, and Transparency. It will be chaired by Senate Higher Education Chairwoman Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and House Higher Education Chair Dan Branch, R-Dallas.
The members from the Senate will include Dallas Republican John Carona, Lubbock Republican Robert Duncan, Amarillo Republican Kel Seliger, Houston Democrat Rodney Ellis, and Austin Democrat Kirk Watson.
The House members will be Angleton Republican Dennis Bonnen, San Antonio Democrat Joaquin Castro, Dallas Democrat Eric Johnson, Brenham Republican Lois Kolkhorst, and Waxahachie Republican Jim Pitts.
The announcement comes amidst an ongoing, contentious debate about the future of higher education in Texas. Recently, this debate has been playing out very publicly at the University of Texas Board of Regents, which have a scheduled meeting next week. Comments and actions by chairman Gene Powell have sparked a barrage of concerned letters from students and alumni of the University of Texas at Austin. Others, meanwhile, have rallied to defend the board's actions.
At the center of the matter is a dispute over seven "breakthrough solutions" for higher education developed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin. Regents of all the university systems were encouraged to implement the proposed "solutions" (the most contentious of which has been the separation of research and teaching budgets) at a summit hosted by the TPPF and Gov. Rick Perry in 2008.