Posts Tagged ‘americans for prosperity’

Reports: Interest groups playing expanded role in 2012 elections

Posted on: February 3rd, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

Broadcast media still dominates the world of political campaign ads, which are financed more than ever by interest groups that will play an increasing role in the 2012 presidential election, according to media reports issued this week. (more…)

(VIDEO) ‘School Choice Week’ marked by endorsements from conservative groups

Posted on: January 24th, 2012 by The American Independent 10 Comments

“National School Choice Week” launched its nationwide activities in New Orleans over the weekend with the participation of celebrities and elected officials and a proclamation of support by at least 25 state governors, including Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott. (more…)

Koch-affiliated tea party group promotes School Choice Week rallies

Posted on: January 18th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

Americans for Prosperity Florida logo (source:

The Florida chapter of the Koch-affiliated tea party group Americans for Prosperity on Tuesday called for people to sign up for rallies affiliated with National School Choice Week, which starts next week. (more…)

Controversial Arizona sheriff endorses, campaigns with Perry

Posted on: November 29th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Sheriff Joe Arpaio (Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry, who has been called “weak” by immigration-enforcement supporters, has picked up the support of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, notorious for his immigration-detention measures and his birther conspiracy theories.

The Phoenix New Times reports:

According to multiple national news outlets, Arpaio will campaign with Perry in New Hampshire on Tuesday, where he will give the Texas governor a political tip of the cap.

Neither the Sheriff’s Office or Perry’s campaign responded to New Times‘ request for confirmation of the reported endorsement, and none of the news outlets reporting the political nod are naming names — ABC News cites “a source with knowledge of the endorsement” as the source of the information. CNN is equally vague, attributing its report to a source within the “governor’s campaign,” while NBC cites a “a source familiar with the matter.”

Arpaio was heckled as he spoke at “Choose Liberty,” a recent event organized by the Eastern Orlando Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity.

Numbers USA — an organization that supports “Attrition Through Enforcement” immigration policy and wants “lower immigration levels” — blamed Perry’s poor showing in the Florida straw poll on his weak stance on immigration enforcement.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has criticized Perry for supporting in state college tuition for undocumented students in Texas. The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports immigration enforcement measures like Arizona’s controversial S.B. 1070 has said “Perry cannot run on is his very questionable, liberal immigration record.”

The New Times adds that “Perry isn’t exactly the hawkish border bully we’d expect Arpaio to support — given some of the sheriff’s other options,” and “in a recent debate between GOP presidential candidates, Perry made what many consider to be a political misstep for a candidate hoping to woo Conservatives: he showed a little compassion.”

Critics say UT faculty productivity study raises more questions than it answers

Posted on: November 18th, 2011 by Teddy Wilson 5 Comments

A University of Texas at Austin study released this week challenged the perception that its professors are unproductive, as some higher education reform advocates have claimed, concluding instead that faculty “work very hard for their students and provide an incredible return on investment for the state.”

Higher education reform advocates, though, are challenging the study’s methodology, contending that the report actually confirms their claims.

Peggy Venable, state director for Americans for Prosperity Texas, wrote on the AFP blog that it is “outrageous that this public university produces a study at taxpayer expense and provides it to the media while embargoing it for several days so the public cannot review or comment on the study as it is released by the media.”

According to reporting by the Austin American-Statesman, UT-Austin sociology professor Marc Musick conducted the study at the request of College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl, “but earned no extra money for the work.”

“He is on the UT payroll, isn’t he? Anything done on state time is at taxpayer expense,” Venable told the Texas Independent. “Is the administration of the College of Liberal Arts bloated because the UT administration is using it to put out propaganda favorable to the University? If associate deans weren’t being used to lobby, we’d need fewer of them.”

Venable went on to say that the study confirmed an analysis by Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder, who said that lumping all the professors together, “it can appear that faculty are productive when in reality some faculty are very productive and others are not productive.”

As the Texas Independent reported, Vedder and his colleagues at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity issued a report earlier this year claiming that that the top-performing 10 percent of UT-Austin professors brought in 90 percent of the research grants, and that 20 percent of the faculty are teaching 57 percent of student credit hours.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s new Center for Higher Education director, Thomas Lindsay said the UT report “raises as many questions as it answers.”

During the weekly TPPF podcast, Lindsay took issue with the fact that the report does not make any comparisons between UT and other universities. “You’ve got to have some benchmark to compare it to, and this study doesn’t do that.”

Lindsay also said that the study should have considered student outcomes along with faculty productivity. “To get a full picture of where we can do to improve things is to combine those two, to develop a truly comprehensive picture of faculty productivity and then compare that to other state public universities,” said Lindsay.

Vedder, who is also a senior fellow at TPPF, told the Texas Independent he was a “little disappointed” in the study, particularly in the way it was released. “I found it a little strange,” Vedder said. “The way in which it was released on a Sunday night was clearly designed to achieve some sort of public relations advantage.”

Vedder said he, too, had a problem with the study only considering faculty productivity, and not student outcomes. Also, he noted that the report only dealt with the UT campus in Austin, and not the nine other campuses that were included in the original data. “It seems to me that a university should be looking at things in a much broader way,” said Vedder.

Vedder also took issue with Musick’s choice to give extra weight to graduate student teaching hours, over undergraduate instruction, by a ratio of 29 to 1 — which he called a “mammoth ratio.”

Vedder said that he doesn’t fault the author of the study, but the formulas used. “What this study says is that we don’t make a lot of money from undergrads but we make a lot of money from grad students,” Vedder said.

Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks join in calls for higher ed reforms

Posted on: August 24th, 2011 by Teddy Wilson 4 Comments

As the University of Texas System Regents prepared for two days of schedule meetings that began this morning, conservative activists held a press conference inside the Texas Capitol Tuesday, urging lower tuition and an end to tenure, the Texas Tribune reported.

During the press conference, sponsored by state Rep. Rodney Anderson, R-Grand Prairie, activists and students criticized the Texas higher education establishment and called for reforms in line with the efficiency-based “seven breakthrough solutions” promoted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Amanda Shell, a representative from FreedomWorks, said that fundamental reform is needed because the education system has put “students as the last priority, and we have seen the devastating effects.”

Shell cited an online petition she said was signed by 6,000 people from Texas and surrounding states, that called for an end of tenure — an institution she said, “only leaves professors to stick with the status quo of the academic establishment It does not promote completion or incentives to grow and change.” Shell also said that the petition calls to end “frivolous research projects.” Without identifying specific projects, she said the definition should come down to “how much they benefit the university.”

Peggy Venable, the state director of Americans for Prosperity Foundation, called for Texas university administrators to “take their heads out of the sand,” and said they should make college “more accessible, more affordable, and their books more transparent.”

Venable cited a state comptroller’s report, which said that if for-profit corporations left students with the same level of debt load they would be treated as “virtual slavers.” According to a Business Week report, students at for-profit colleges actually hold the biggest loans in higher education, as those that earn a bachelor’s degree at for-profits have median debt of $31,190 compared with $17,040 at private, nonprofit institutions and $7,960 at public colleges. USA Today reported last year about government investigation of 15 for-profit colleges found that at four campuses officials encouraged applicants to commit fraud and found examples at every school of officials lying about or misrepresenting their programs.

In an interview with the Texas Independent, Cindy Mallette, Grassroots and Communications Director of the Texas chapter of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, reiterated that AFP does not support modeling higher education reforms after for-profit colleges.

Mallette said that AFP wanted to prevent students from being “priced out of college” by focusing on reforms that promote “affordability, accessibility and transparency,” including the “seven solutions” written by Jeff Sandefer and backed by the TPPF.

“We would have liked more media to have attended in person, but we were extremely pleased with the coverage we’ve received so far,” Mallette told the Independent in an email.

When asked if AFP supports that higher education reforms that FreedomWorks was advocating, such as ending of professor tenure and “frivolous” research, she said that AFP has not endorsed ending professor tenure, and that determining what research is frivolous is “subjective.”

AFP is “happy to have FreedomWorks as a coalition partner,” Mallette said, “but we take a gentler approach to higher education reform.”

This article has been updated to clarify Cindy Mallette’s remarks on media attendance at the event, and to correct a reference to “for-profit corporations” in a state comptroller’s newsletter.

Americans for Prosperity slams UT regent for ‘elitist’ community college suggestion

Posted on: August 19th, 2011 by Teddy Wilson No Comments

On the way to building up its youth outreach efforts, the Texas chapter of Americans for Prosperity, through its America’s Next Impact project, has hosted “Generation Debt” happy hour gatherings in San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas, to round up young people concerned about higher education reform and the federal debt.

UT Regent Jim Dannenbaum

The August 10 event in Houston attracted University of Texas Regent Jim Dannenbaum, who, according to AFP-Texas’ blog, turned up hoping for a chance to speak to the crowd. As the group’s director Peggy Venable recounted, Dannenbaum didn’t end up speaking to the crowd — but his comments to Venable outside the event have made him a target of the group this week, which has made him a poster boy for the “elitist” UT atmosphere the group is working against:

Upon further discussions with him just outside the room, he said that UT was a research university and that students who wanted more affordably schools can go to junior colleges, and he started naming the junior colleges. Trust me, that would not have gone over well to the young people gathered in the room.

These were young leaders, many of them proud of their college degrees and their universities, but realizing that these universities can be more efficient (and therefore more affordable) and in doing so, more students can enjoy the “elite” experience of attending one of Texas’ top-notch public universities.

Venable continued to criticize Dannebaum’s comments, saying that “elitism won’t go far with taxpayers, students and parents.”

The AFP-sponsored group Rock the Ivory Tower joined in on Twitter, suggesting a comparison between Dannenbaum and an “elitist cat.”

Dannenbaum is a 2007 appointee to the Board of Regents by Gov. Rick Perry, and has given more than $320,000 to Perry’s campaigns while his Houston engineering firm has been a popular contractor for the state.

Over half of students enrolled in college in Texas are at community colleges, according to the latest report from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and many of those students transfer to four-year universities. A new law passed earlier this year in Texas will make it easier to carry credit from two- to four-year universities.

In the fall of 2000 over 431,000 student were enrolled in Texas community college compared to over 414,000 enrolled in four-year universities. Enrollment in community colleges has grown faster than in four-year universities, too — in fall 2010, over 721,000 students were enrolled in community college compared to over 557,000 enrolled in universities.

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board statistics also show that the average costs for dependent students living off campus who enroll in 15 credit hours in both fall and spring at a community college is $14,178. While the average cost for a student at a 4 year public university is $20,610.

According to a report by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, in 2001 Texas completed a major study of the effectiveness of its statewide transfer policies that found that community colleges are an important part of the higher education system in Texas:

“The study found no significant difference in the quality of student performance at the receiving institutions (as measured by grade-point averages) between native students and those who transferred after completing at least 30 semester credit hours. The majority of community college credits were accepted by the receiving four-year institutions: 80% of total semester credit hours were accepted for transfer, of which 70% were applied to the baccalaureate degree major. Transfer credit was denied primarily for low grades and for remedial and developmental courses.”

Rock the Ivory Tower initiative brings grassroots level to seven solutions

Posted on: July 6th, 2011 by Mary Lee Grant No Comments

The Americans for Prosperity Foundation launched a new higher education reform initiative, “Rock the Ivory Tower,” aimed at making college education “more accessible, affordable and transparent for college students,” the group said Tuesday.

In a video, one student points out that the average college graduate today carries a student loan debt of $22,000 to $27,000, and that the interest on that loan in a ten-year period is almost $10,000. This level of debt can keep students from fully participating in the economy, and making major purchases like a house and car, the student points out. The group says that tuition costs have become unsustainable, increasing 70 percent since 2003.

Rock the Ivory Tower has already been featured in a Texas Tribune/New York Times story, as a long-term rival to the Texas Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education, which has organized to oppose the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Seven Breakthrough Solutions.

This week the group is raising its visibility with the press release and a social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, the Texas Exes publication, the Alcalde, ran an analysis by the Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education’s J.J. Baskin, countered statements by the UT Regents’ former adviser Rick O’Donnell in a series of interviews with Texas newspapers last week.

Baskin said that O’Donnell, who was fired earlier this year and reached a settlement with the university last week, was wrong in claiming the recent higher education debate isn’t about the value of research. “It really is about research,“ he said:

Mr. O’Donnell suggests that the controversy at hand is not about research and that UT-Austin advocates raise that issue as a red herring. The sense of research being under attack is real. He can diminish the significance of his flawed white paper on research or implementing budgets that separate research from teaching, but this is the core of what makes UT-Austin exceptional and was the foundation for the burnt-orange call to arms.

Baskin said that alumni concerns over the hiring of O’Donnell came out of a “flawed, non-inclusive and alarming hiring process, as well as his writings and associations” and that O’Donnell’s hiring made him the 18th highest-paid employee during a system-wide hiring freeze, in the face of massive budget cuts and the most serious budget troubles Texas has ever faced.

There are only two major market forces in higher education, the labor force (faculty), and the learning force, (students). Faculty chose where to teach, and a great faculty member can teach anywhere. Great students are recruited and choose the institution they believe is the best match. One of the most important factors for both groups is prestige.

He said that there are lessons to be learned from A&M’s “red and black” reports, which rated faculty according to revenue generated and size of classes taught. He pointed out that the lowering in faculty morale that resulted from the report has hampered faculty recruitment, and that A&M’s national prestige was damaged as it experienced its first peer-reviewed rating decrease in a decade.

“Unvetted policies that potentially damage our most elusive capital — our reputation —interfere with our ability to attract the best and brightest,” Baskin wrote.