Gov. Rick Scott (Pic via flgov.com)
Gov. Rick Scott (Pic via flgov.com)

Scott looks to Texas governor for ideas on how to change higher education

By | 07.27.11 | 10:46 am

According to The News Service of Florida, Gov. Rick Scott is taking inspiration from controversial education changes in Texas, and may be toying with the idea of bringing them to Florida.

From the News Service:

Gov. Rick Scott has begun discreetly promoting the same changes to the higher education system that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has championed. The proposals include some of the same reforms pushed by conservatives in K-12 schools: merit pay for professors, tenure reform, and generally a much greater emphasis on measurement of whether professors are turning out students that meet certain goals.

The attempt in Texas has caused something of an identity crisis in that states higher education community, with opponents saying what needs to be reformed is Perrys control over university policies.

Scott told the News Service of Florida on Tuesday that he has discussed the Texas reforms with his appointees to university and college governing boards in an effort to line up support for a nascent campaign to dramatically change how universities and colleges are funded, overhaul professor tenure, emphasize teaching over research, and give students more influence.

Scott has long cited the Longhorn State as a source of inspiration, and he often looks to Texas Gov. Rick Perry for advice that he can bring to his own state. But Perry, who will reportedly announce a presidential bid soon, has caught a lot of flack for many of his education reforms, specifically those outlined in the boldly named “Seven Breakthrough Solutions,” a report put out by a right-leaning think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The “Solutions” would implement a business-like model for colleges and universities, and require that professors be rated on their productivity. As noted on Texas news site Chron.com, “the system rewards time in the classroom, but penalizes professors who teach small, difficult classes.” Representatives of many of the state’s public universities have spoken out against Perry’s reforms. Others, like FreedomWorks President Dick Armey, have backed Perry’s controversial ideas.

In an interview with the News Service, Scott applauded Perry’s reform ideas, saying that students “ought to be measuring the effectiveness of our professors because ultimately, it is the family’s money paying for this.” He also said that, after interviewing people for positions on a university or colleges board of trustees, he sends them a copy of “Seven Breakthrough Solutions.” “I send them a copy of [the proposals] and say ,’What do you think?’”

Scott signed a teacher merit-pay bill affecting K-12 schools in May. The law judges a teacher’s performance on student test score data. The bill also put into place a performance-based pay system for new teachers. Teachers and their unions across the state opposed the bill, arguing it would unfairly evaluate their performance.

Thus far, though, Scott has yet to make a serious effort to implement higher education reforms here. The News Service reports that “the two lawmakers in charge of crafting higher education policy in Florida say they have not even spoken to anyone in Scott’s office about the reforms.”

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