Revolving door leads Shapiro to Academic Partnerships’ rising star in Texas higher ed
Texas state Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano), longtime chair of the Senate Education Committee, announced her retirement in mid-September after nearly 20 years at the State Capitol. Less than one month later, she joined Academic Partnerships, a firm that’s quickly become a leading cheerleader for the expansion of online education at universities in Texas, and even around the world.The Dallas Morning News speculated early that she’d be joining the company, founded by Dallas entrepreneur Randy Best, who made his first big splash in education by anticipating the demand for K-12 reading programs created by No Child Left Behind. Last month Shapiro told the Morning News she was “not working for Randy Best” and that she hadn’t “signed a contract or done anything with anybody.”
Shapiro said wherever she landed, she’d avoid any conflict of interest in her new line of work. “I will not be soliciting business in Texas until after I’m a senator, that’s for sure,” she told the Morning News. “My reputation is more important to me than a dollar.”
Weeks later, the Texas Tribune’s Reeve Hamilton broke the news that Shapiro would, in fact, be joining Best, as Academic Partnerships’ executive vice president of corporate communications, selling officials on its services helping public universities convert their courses into online offerings owned by Best, and recruit students to fill them. Shapiro told the Tribune that she views the Academic Partnerships model as a “positive hybrid” between a private company and a public university.
Landing Shapiro was just one of a few big moves lately from Academic Partnerships, which has also been embraced as a preferred partner in reform plans at the University of Texas System, and hosted a slick invitation-only symposium on the untapped potential for online learning at U.S. public universities.
The Future of State Universities conference presented university officials with a vision of inexpensive, data-driven and online learning, and talks from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — a major backer of for-profit online education ventures in his state — and former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt, whose Hunt Institute board includes Best. As the Texas Independent reported, the conference stopped short of a sales pitch for Best’s company, but helped expose officials to his philosophy for higher ed reform while raising Academic Partnerships’ profile.
A spokeswoman for the company declined to answer questions about which schools Academic Partnerships works with, but its site lists a handful of schools, including UT-Arlington, Texas A&M-Commerce, Lamar University and Arizona State University. Using sophisticated marketing techniques to recruit students, and hosting online courses for colleges and universities, the company typically receives 50 percent to 80 percent of tuition costs depending on the contracts, according to a report from the Dallas Morning News.
The company’s business practices and involvement in higher education have been criticized and met with resistance from some university faculty in the past. A proposal to enlist Best’s company — then known as Higher Ed Holdings — at the University of Toledo was a met with a faculty revolt. According to reporting by Inside Higher Ed, one faculty member at Arkansas State resigned from an academic committee in protest because he refused to be a part of a “scam.”
Along with Shapiro’s work in Texas, the Tribune also reported that Shapiro’s duties for Academic Partnerships will include international work, including travel to Colombia. Best also runs the Whitney University System, a network of for-profit universities in Central and South America.
According to its website, WUS is a “private higher education company that invests in and supports premier universities in the region with an exclusive focus on Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking populations.” It boasts of serving over 125,000 students while serving its mission of “democratizing education while maintaining its highest quality.”
The advisory board of WUS includes Jeb Bush, as well as the Rand Corporation’s former Director of International Programs, Jerrold D. Green, and former Bush Administration U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Rod Paige.
Well this comes as no surprise, after reading Matt Taibbi’s exposure of the corruption that exists in TX politics in Rolling Stone this week. Rick Perry is so corrupt he has no boundaries he will not cross to make a buck and sell out the people of his state. And this article is just another affirmation of that widespread rather blatant corruption. Rick Perry could not get away with trying to sell off TX public assets to a bud or campaign contributor at yard sale prices. This woman is just another traitor to her country, to her constituency and to the people who believed she was their voice in govt. She took her taxpayer salary and benefits and sold out her friends, her neighbors and the future generations of TX. I used to think that women would make a difference in politics, but Republican women are worse than their male counterparts. they are supposed to be the civilizing characteristic of a society, instead this woman has just gotten down in the mud with the rest of the PIGS (POLITICAL INGRATES GUTTING SOCIETY). These people sleep at night because they have no conscience, they have no soul and are the personification of POLITICAL EVIL. POX ON HER and those she drags into her WEB of deceit and fraud.
CarmanK, your fluffy exagerated choice of words fail to support your argument that she has commited any fraud or treason. A Texas legislator’s salary is $7,200 per year; if you have a job, I’m sure you make much more than that (http://www.laits.utexas.edu/txp_media/html/leg/0205.html). I am one of her constituents in her district (#8), and I have seen her accomplish passing laws that have benefited the entire state. Some of those laws include the Ashley and Jacob laws that increase protection for children from sexual offenders and neglectful daycare centers. If you are going to make accusations, please support them with factual evidence.
Hiring Florence Shapiro is a real coup for Academic Partnerships. She is a very bright individual who is dedicated and hard-working. Moreover, she understands education issues and will be a great asset to the online education movement and Academic Partnerships.