Last week, as the special session of the 82nd Texas Legislature put the finishing touches on one of the most hotly-contested state budgets in recent history, the most powerful man in Texas government couldn’t be found within a coyote’s howl of the state.
As Republicans and Democrats debated how to make up for a $19 billion budget shortfall over the next two years, Gov. Rick Perry was on a whirlwind cross-country tour, the only purpose of which seemed to be to sheepishly invite questions regarding a possible presidential bid in 2012. Perry has previously stated he would not run, saying last year, “I don’t have any interest in going to D.C. as a president, vice president, member of Congress, car guard — none of the above.” But the buzz surrounding our state’s longest-serving governor has continued to mount, and his latest round of out-of-state speaking engagements has some questioning whether Perry is considering throwing his hat into the ring.
Perry has spent the last week traveling cross-country from Los Angeles to New York to New Orleans, a trip which included stops to meet with “potential donors” and an appearance on Fox News where he called himself a “prophet.” Perhaps that term was merely a reference to the national prayer rally that Perry has been busy planning for later this summer. At the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, where Perry signed copies of his book “Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington,” buttons sporting “Perry 2012” were hot sellers.
Meanwhile, as Perry has been feverishly ripping the Obama administration in his stump speeches, calling it “irresponsible,” the state he governs still does not have a budget for the upcoming year. School districts are laying off teachers, health services aiding thousands of Texans are getting cut and Perry’s primary concern is making sure potential voters know just how much he dislikes President Barack Obama.
The focus of Perry’s speeches has centered on Texas’ economic performance during the current recession; Perry touts a number of measures showing the state has fared better than its peers in recent years. Some numbers Perry won’t mention include the state’s dismal education ranking — placing it at the bottom of the lists for student achievement — spending per student and graduation rates. Those numbers show no hope of improvement, given the proposed cuts to public education in the state.
Meanwhile, while scouting his campaign trail, Perry seems perfectly content to play the role of prettiest girl at the prom. Texans are left wondering where the party was.
Preserving higher education
Several state leaders have formed the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, unveiled last week, to address the higher education debate that could substantially reduce the quality of education offered in the state.
In the past several months, Gov. Rick Perry and the UT System Board of Regents have shown support for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, whose proposed reforms include a separation of research and teaching budgets, which would significantly reduce University-generated research, and an unfeasible reduction in tuition costs that would likely result in increased class sizes and fewer courses.
We applaud the efforts of everyone who has spoken out against the proposed reforms and appreciate the action taken by the group’s founding members, which total more than 200. The coalition which includes former university presidents, regents, and lieutenant governors will help improve discussions and increase transparency surrounding higher education in the state. The group has also garnered attention for the diverse backgrounds of its participants, which includes many former Perry supporters and influential donors from both political parties. We hope it is the first of many steps to preserve the quality of education offered at UT and other universities across Texas.