Dewhurst Tears Up the Seating Chart

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in his office at Falcon Seaboard in Houston Wednesday, April 25, 2012.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in his office at Falcon Seaboard in Houston Wednesday, April 25, 2012.

His assignments move him to the right after a contest that had him to the left of two out of four Republican candidates, and to make sure everyone got the point, he used the word "conservative" three times in the first two paragraphs of the press release announcing the changes. Laredo Democrat Judith Zaffirini's demotion from chairman of the Higher Education panel and the elevation of Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, to that post got most of the headlines, but here's a bet that his pick for Public Education chairman, Dan Patrick, R-Houston, will get more headlines in the next few months.

Patrick's ascension is a win for school voucher supporters. In fact, Dewhurst waved that flag in his announcement, saying he named Patrick "due to his strong interest in improving public education for children, instituting innovative change and providing for more school choice by parents." Several other senators lobbied for that job (it's open because Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, didn't seek another term), but Patrick got the nod.

Zaffirini has been working for weeks to hang on to higher ed, but Republican senators have been working for weeks to push her out of that assignment and they apparently had the Lite Guv's ear. She'll have a toehold, with sunset bills going through her new committee, including one for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Dewhurst started the shuffling a few weeks ago, tapping Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, to replace Steve Ogden, who didn't seek another term, as head of the Finance committee. That has some logic to it, since the nuts and bolts of budgeteering start well before a legislative session and because it gives Ogden a chance to train Williams in those dark arts.

For the rest, the big question is: Why now? Sorting out the committees is generally a chore for the early weeks of a legislative session and in fact, Dewhurst didn't say who will populate each of the committees to which he named chairs.

Not to stir speculation, but it's worth mentioning that nothing prevents another reshuffling when the session gets going if something convinces the lieutenant governor that one or more of his choices is a sour pickle.

Much remains the same, with some senators chairing the committees they already chaired. That group includes Williams at Finance; Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, at Health and Human Services; Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, at State Affairs; John Carona, R-Dallas, at Business and Commerce; Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, at Natural Resources; Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, at Administration; John Whitmire, D-Houston, at Criminal Justice; and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, at Veteran Affairs and Military Installations.

The new names on the masthead — or old names in new places — include Patrick, Seliger, Zaffirini at Government Organization; Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, Transportation; Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, Open Government; Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, Agriculture, Rural Affairs and Homeland Security; Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, Intergovernmental Relations; Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, Nominations; Royce West, D-Dallas, Jurisprudence; and Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, Economic Development.

Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, saw his committee and his chairmanship abolished; so did Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, who had chaired a Senate subcommittee. The redistricting panel chaired last session by Seliger was also disbanded.

If you're keeping score, that's 12 Republican and six Democrats chairing committees.

While You Were Watching Voter ID

Voter ID for Democrats in 2012 is like 1989 NFL season for the Dallas Cowboys. That year, America’s Team mustered one victory in a 16-game campaign, and it came against the hated Washington Redskins.

Outnumbered and beaten down, Democrats saw their hated voter ID bill get to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk in 2011, only to see it halted by the Department of Justice and subsequently, a federal court this year.

Score one for the Ds.

But a bevy of GOP-backed laws that affect voter registration, which critics allege are just as egregious, sailed through the Legislature and were precleared by the Department of Justice. They include House Bill 174, by state Rep. Jim Jackson, R-Carrollton, which requires the Texas Secretary of State  to access the Social Security Administration’s death master file to check for deceased voters. It passed the Texas House after a 143-1 vote, and the Senate passed it unanimously. It wasn’t until living voters began getting notices saying they needed to prove they were alive that Democrats cried foul. Voters subsequently sued the state and an agreement was reached this week that voters wouldn’t be purged — this time. But the law is still in play for the next round.

Then there was House Bill 2194, by state Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, which ensures that a voter registrar meet the requirements of a registered voter. Before, a registrar simply had to be deputized. What that means is that thousands of permanent legal residents in line for citizenship — those who lawmakers say “followed the rules” when they came here — can’t take part in the process as registars because they don't qualify as voters. It also prohibits compensation based on how many voters a person registeres. The DOJ made no determination on that bill, meaning it didn’t find it would disenfranchise voters. And it also sailed through the House 134 to 7, and unanimously through the Senate.

The League of Women Voters of Texas was concerned, telling the DOJ that: “Texas has lagged the nation in voter registration and has been among the states with the lowest turnout of the voter eligible population, 46th in 2008 and 50th in 2010.”

Regardless, the law is in effect now.

So where was the outrage during the session? The opposition wasn't organized and some argue all the energy was spent on voter ID.

“Voter ID became more of a symbol and a litmus test than it was about the actual substance of the law,” said state Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg. “And so because these other bills did not have that high profile attention, both nationally and on a state level, they didn’t receive the sort of projected ‘are you with us or are you against us’ mentality.”

Project Vote, a voting rights group that sued the state and was granted an injunction against parts of the voter registration provision — only to see it overturned — declined to comment on why the DOJ precleared the laws. But spokeswoman Sarah Massey said voter ID was the “vanguard” that let the other laws come in to play.

“Voter ID seems to be the one that people really seem to understand, voter ID is the forefront of the voter restriction campaign [and] it’s fairly popular,” she said.  “ What we have behind voter ID now are restrictions on voter registration drives, and also how to register. But those who sell these laws put them under the same guise of ‘we’re fighting for voter integrity’ and that’s their talking point.”

That talking point seemed to sell, at least during the session.

Something Borrowed, Something Sued

One school finance expert recently likened the efforts of the parties suing the state over how it funds schools to work together to “six fat boys trying to climb into a Volkswagen beetle.”

With the first day of trial set for Oct. 22 in Austin, the six parties — aligned on some issues, opposed on others — will be in the courtroom together for at least the next two months as the case plays out. The decision, expected in January but sure to be immediately appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, will set the tone for the next round of reforms to the state’s school finance system. But there’s a separate conversation happening outside the courtroom that could be equally instructive — and indicates funding for schools may be face challenges not only at the state but the local level.

Comptroller Susan Combs recently released a report chiding local governments for a lack of transparency about the debt they carry — a third of which, she noted, belongs to school districts.

“Left unchecked and unmonitored, debt can spiral, hindering your dreams instead of furthering them,” Combs said in a statement, “Governments need to be mindful of debt as well, and they need to tell you, the people who are paying for it, how big the price tag will be.”

The 2014 Lt. Gov. hopeful has made clear she will zero in the issue, which has inflamed critics who point out that local governments are often forced to take on debt for services the state has refused to pay for or because of unfunded mandates the state has passed down.

But the comptroller’s focus falls in line with the mission of groups that support small government like the Texas branch of Americans for Prosperity. President Peggy Venable warned of the perils of soaring local debt at the latest Senate Finance committee hearing, where she criticized school districts’ rising debt, which she said did not match enrollment patterns. A forthcoming report focuses solely on debt and education.

Meanwhile, one prominent state senator has pushed forward with another solution to the school finance mess. At a recent meeting of the joint-committee on school finance, Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, revived his perennial proposal for a statewide property tax in lieu of local property taxes. His plan would tax property at $1 per $100 of valuation to pay for schools and allow districts to add local taxes of up to 17 cents more for local programs. Any additional local revenue collect by higher-wealth districts would be subject to recapture by the state under “Robin Hood” laws. He said the approach would provide a school finance fix without raising taxes. 

“We want to change the point of collection, not create a new tax or raises taxes,” he said, “This is a way to distribute funding for public education in a rational, efficient way.” 

New Faces — a Big Turnover Year in Politics

It's a big turnover year already. Without finishing the general election, it's already clear that 40 members of the House are leaving, along with five members of the Senate and three members of the state's congressional delegation. The four new Texas seats in Congress mean that group will have seven freshmen in it. January will see at least 52 new officeholders in the two capitols.

Even if none of the remaining incumbents gets beat or loses, this will be the biggest freshman class over all — legislative and congressional officeholders combined — since 1983, when 63 newbies came in. The modern record was in 1973, when the Sharpstown scandal and redistricting combined to help turn over more than half each of the Texas House and Senate; 93 fresh faces were in the Legislature that year after the housecleaning by voters in the 1972 elections.

The numbers, compiled from data at the Legislative Reference Library and other sources, include the number of new members as of January in the year after an election. There's a bump in the lines for each bout of redistricting — a reliable trend line that is repeating this year. You can also spot big election years that don't correspond to redistricting; 2010 with its Republican sweep was an example. And you can spot lulls, like in 2000, when only 13 officeholders were replaced.

The lines in the chart represent the House, the Senate, the congressional delegation and the combination of the three.


The Texas Weekly Hotlist for 10/8/12

The changes this week were done with an eraser — the candidate lists from the Texas Secretary of State show the Libertarian candidates who had signed up for two House races — HD-23 and HD-107 — have dropped out. So has the Green Party candidate in HD-102.

Third-party candidates can make a real difference in swing districts and other close races, draining votes from candidates who might otherwise be a couple of points ahead. They give voters an opportunity to go with a third party, or to express their distaste for the major-party candidates, which isn't necessarily the same thing. 


Newsreel: Debates and Committee Assignments

This week in the Texas Weekly Newsreel, we look at the two big debates held this week and check out who's been shuffled in the new Senate committee assignments.

Inside Intelligence: About Those Debates...

The first round of debates are now behind us, but before Paul Sadler and Ted Cruz started arguing on television and Barack Obama and Mitt Romney held the first of their pre-election forums, we asked the insiders about the stakes.

A slight majority said the presidential debates will make a difference in that race — just 52 percent think so. A huge majority — 89 percent — said the debates between the two Texans running for U.S. Senate won't make a difference in that race. One of those is behind us; the other is in a week.

Almost two-thirds believe the presidential race will have some effect on races in Texas. And finally, 73 percent said the outcome of the presidential race will affect who runs for state offices in Texas in 2014, so there's that to look forward to.

As always, we asked for comments and attached the full set; a sampling follows:


Will the presidential debates make any difference in that race?

• "Romney's only chance!"

• "Not unless Romney does surprisingly exceptionally well. Otherwise, this race is over."

• "Is there anyone in this country who is still undecided?"

• "I hope so-called independents won't base their decisions on sound byte answers (not to mention non-answers)."

• "Only if one of them totally screws up."

• "Based upon the recent polls, I certainly hope so."

• "Mittens is such a compelling presence, surely the country just needs to hear more from him directly to turn the tide in his favor.  I'd bet $10,000 that Obama will fight Romney to a draw, if not beat him outright in the debates."

• "I doubt the debates will have much sway. Neither candidate seems likely to have an oops moment."

• "These national debates seldom turn a race around, but always influence the outcome."

• "It's a chance for many people to see Romney for the first time - unfiltered."

• "More so for Romney.  Not because of his standing in the race but to be able to deliver an unfiltered message."

• "Unless Obama admits to being the anti-Christ chosen by the 33 degree Scottish Rite Freemasons to bring in tyranny under a communistic regime; no it won't make a bit of difference as Mitt is toast."

• "The only time a debate becomes a game changer is when the candidate does (GB41 and his watch) or says (TXGuv Ooops!) Something that defines them in the wrong light."

• "The bar is set high for the President and if Romney appears to outperform expectations, then Romney will get a bump from the debates."

• "Certainly not in Texas"


Will the U.S. Senate debates in Texas make any difference in that race?

• "That old 'if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it' question... same principle here."

• "Can't imagine anything short of a major blowup changes the outcome of this race, especially with Obama at the top of the ticket."

• "The press will not publicize the debate enough for it to matter."

• "Dems are not yet competitive"

• "I thought Ted was already in DC, there will be debates? With who?"

• "It might change some votes, but the outcome of the election is already determined."

• "Both Sadler and Cruz will debate well.  However, Sadler will come across as rational; Cruz as radical. The only way these debates don't make a difference is if no one is paying any attention and the press highlights the show and not the substance."

• "There's a Senate race?"


Will the presidential race affect any Texas races?

• "Look for Senator Wendy Davis to benefit from Obama turnout as she did 4 years ago."

• "Presidential race will increase turnout for Democrats.  Even though they won't win, they'll want their voice to be heard.  Republicans vote no matter what, so the impact won't as visible."

• "Will carry Weber over the line in TX-14 -- unclear how it will impact Canseco/Gallego"

• "Turn out and voter enthusiasm won't help Dems.  In the Texas Senate, no Obama coattails to help Wendy Davis."

• "It will be interesting to see how the presidential race impacts the SD 10 race. Obama turns out Davis's base, but he will also turn out Rs and Texan independents who want to make him a one term president."

• "Every national race has a coattail effect.  If you don't believe that ask all of the Texas House democrats who lost in 2010."

• "The tight races it could impact Congressional District 23 Conseco v. Gallego Senate District 10 Davis v. Shelton House District 23 Eiland v. Faircloth House District 114 Villalba v. Kent"

• "The question is whether Rs will turn out because they're sick of Obama, or whether they won't turn out because they're sick of Romney.  Which makes you feel sicker?  Voting or not voting?  All races in Texas will be affected by this presidential phenomenon.  Ds will turn out in their usual humdrum numbers."

• "The higher turnout of presidential elections over off-year elections will benefit the Democrats. Democrats should pick-up 6 to 10 seats in the Texas house."

• "There will be some down ticket impact in places like El Paso county; the Margo/Moody race will be closer likely impacted by the national race."


Will the national outcome of the presidential race affect who might run in 2014 in Texas?

• "If Obama wins (probably) opens up the field"

• "Look for San Antonio Mayor Castro to run for Governor if Obama is re-elected and Perry runs for re-election.  He might keep his powder dry until the following cycle if Obama loses and someone like Abbott is running for Governor."

• "If Romney wins, I suspect Perry will not seek re-election"

• "With a 2nd Obama term, Perry's team cooks up their story about pain killers and lack-of-sleep as an excuse of his poor showing.  They dust off the boots (with lower and more comfortable heels) for a 2nd run."

• "If indeed Perry is considering another run for the WH, may impact his 2014 plans for Gov."

• "If Romney loses, look for Perry to gin up loudly and quickly."

• "If Obama wins, Perry has a clearer shot at the 2016 national nomination.  That probably means he'll run for re-election, since governorship brings so many perks (free travel, security, etc.)."

• "Regardless, Rick Perry is on his way out. . . looking for a graceful exit."

• "Please, let's not start with the Perry 2016 nonsense. Republicans outside of the state are now 'Once Bitten, Twice Shy' when it comes to supporting a Perry presidential bid."

• "An Obama win will further strengthen the hard right.  A Romney win will open up more opportunities for Democrats in the midterms."

• "I am sick of 'what ifs'"

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Victor Alcorta, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, Jay Arnold, Louis Bacarisse, Charles Bailey, Tom Banning, Dave Beckwith, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Steve Bresnen, Chris Britton, Andy Brown, Blaine Bull, Lydia Camarillo, Kerry Cammack, Marc Campos, Thure Cannon, Snapper Carr, Corbin Casteel, William Chapman, Elna Christopher, Rick Cofer, Lawrence Collins, Harold Cook, Beth Cubriel, Randy Cubriel, Denise Davis, Hector De Leon, June Deadrick, Nora Del Bosque, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Richard Dyer, Jeff Eller, Jack Erskine, Jon Fisher, Rebecca Flores, Wil Galloway, Norman Garza, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Kinnan Golemon, Jim Grace, John Greytok, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Adam Haynes, John Heasley, Jim Henson, Ken Hodges, Steve Holzheauser, Billy Howe, Laura Huffman, Shanna Igo, Richie Jackson, Cal Jillson, Jason Johnson, Bill Jones, Mark Jones, Robert Jones, Lisa Kaufman, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Ramey Ko, Dale Laine, Pete Laney, James LeBas, Donald Lee, Luke Legate, Myra Leo, Elizabeth Lippincott, Ruben Longoria, Homero Lucero, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Matt Matthews, Bryan Mayes, Dan McClung, Mike McKinney, Robert Miller, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Craig Murphy, Keir Murray, Pat Nugent, Sylvia Nugent, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Richard Pineda, Allen Place, Jay Pritchard, Jay Propes, Ted Melina Raab, Bill Ratliff, Tim Reeves, Kim Ross, Jason Sabo, Mark Sanders, Andy Sansom, Jim Sartwelle, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Steve Scurlock, Ben Sebree, Christopher Shields, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Todd Smith, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, Jason Stanford, Keith Strama, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Sherry Sylvester, Jay Thompson, Russ Tidwell, Gerard Torres, Trent Townsend, Trey Trainor, Ware Wendell, Ken Whalen, Darren Whitehurst, Seth Winick, Alex Winslow, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Friday, Oct. 5:

  • House Higher Education Committee hearing (9 a.m.)

Monday, Oct. 8:

  • Senate Education Committee hearing (9 a.m.)
  • House Business and Industry Committee hearing (9 a.m.)
  • House Appropriations subcommittee hearing (10 a.m.)
  • House Urban Affairs Committee hearing (10 a.m.)

Tuesday, Oct. 9:

  • Senate Business and Commerce Committee hearing (10 a.m.)
  • House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee hearing (10 a.m.)
  • House Elections Committee hearing (10 a.m.)

Wednesday, Oct. 10:

  • Fundraiser for Rep. Wayne Smith; Austin Club (4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.)
  • Fundraiser for House candidate Gene Wu; Houston (6-8 p.m.)

Thursday, Oct. 11:

  • Fundraiser for U.S. House candidate Nick Lampson; Red River BBQ Restaurant, League City (11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m.)
  • Fundraiser for Rep. Linda Harper Brown; The Brass Bean, Grand Prairie (5:30-7 p.m.)

Guest Column: Colleges Should Use Race in Admissions

The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin, in which the university will defend its consideration of race in admissions. As an alumnus of this great American research university and as an executive who has spent a lifetime building businesses, I am doubly invested in the outcome.

The societal reasons to care about diversity alone are sufficient to support efforts to increase it within education. But I have learned that a diversified student population also has positive implications for a company’s bottom line. And I’m not alone. Indeed, some 57 of America’s best-known corporations have filed a brief with the court in support of the university’s policy, including Abbott Laboratories, Xerox, Walmart, Starbucks, IBM, Dell, Shell, PepsiCo, and Procter & Gamble. In the brief, these companies state unequivocally that the “conscious pursuit of diversity” is a “business and economic imperative.”

While it’s important for universities in general to be diverse, it’s even more important that our national research universities be so. Business leaders are not just concerned about getting more minorities into the workforce, although that certainly is an important goal in and of itself. We also want to get more ethnic diversity into the executive suite, into business leadership. Education like that offered at our nation’s flagship universities develops people to be leaders, whether in business, nonprofit organizations or government. The ethnic diversity of a leadership team has a direct bearing on the success of the organization. And in my own board service, I have frequently heard fellow directors lament that corporate boards need more diversity. Indeed, no less critical an institution than the U.S. Department of Defense is on the university’s side, as the military has joined other federal agencies in filing an amicus brief in this case. There are some differences between business and the military, but the similarities are both numerous and obvious — the need for mutual trust and teamwork within an organization, the enhanced ability to work in a variety of environments, the ability to lead diverse people and to collaborate with people of diverse cultures, and diversity of leadership as a safeguard against discrimination, to name just a few.

Diverse leaders are better able to understand, anticipate and penetrate diverse markets. They more readily comprehend the variety of consumer needs and desires specific to particular groups, and therefore more effectively develop products and services that appeal to many different consumer markets. As the world shrinks, the need for diverse leaders grows even more acute.

Diverse managers and executives also create a more positive work environment by decreasing incidents of discrimination and stereotyping. They enrich the mix of ideas that can lead to stronger products and better services. And leaders educated on a diverse campus are better prepared to function in the global economy.

To really see the value of conscious efforts to diversify college campuses, businesses need only look at their own hiring practices. They do not seek to fill quotas, nor do they hire employees on the basis of a single test score. Rather, great companies seek to hire the most qualified group of employees while taking into account all of the traits that might enrich their workplaces and strengthen their businesses.

The University of Texas at Austin takes the same approach with its holistic admissions policies, which are necessary to educating culturally competent leaders and minority leaders in our increasingly diverse state and nation.

University admission decisions, and the education and training students gain access to when admitted to UT-Austin and similar institutions, play a crucial role in determining who will be in the candidate pool for employers. When businesses make decisions about hiring and promotion, it is critical that they be able to draw from a superior pool of candidates — both minority and non-minority.

The Supreme Court should allow all universities — and especially our nation’s selective flagship research universities — to pursue diverse classes of excellent students, for the sake of the students and the quality of their educations, for the sake of a society still striving to bestow opportunity more equally across its many populations and, yes, for the sake of healthy businesses and all of the benefits they contribute to society.

American companies can compete with the world’s best. But they need the talent, creativity and resourcefulness of a workforce as diverse as the world around us all.

Kenneth Jastrow is former chairman and CEO of Temple-Inland and an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin. 

Guest Column: Race Has No Place in College Admissions

The issue presented by Fisher v. University of Texas is whether a state university should give preference to some applicants on the basis of their race and thereby disadvantage other applicants on the basis of their race. For most people, at least outside of academia, the answer is clear: Race preference is obviously inconsistent with the American ideal that all persons are equal before the law and are to be treated as individuals, not as members of racial groups. It is inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education holding, everyone thought, that all race discrimination by government is unconstitutional. It is inconsistent with Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits race discrimination by any institution, such as the University of Texas, that receives federal funds.

The purpose of the university’s race preference program is to admit blacks and Mexican-Americans who do not meet the university’s ordinary admission standards. The program effectively adopts as official university policy the view that members of these groups cannot meet and cannot be expected to meet standards applicable to others. One unfortunate result of the policy is to raise the question, as in The Bell Curve, of group racial differences, a question that a policy of race neutrality thankfully makes irrelevant. It also necessarily raises a question as to and tends to demean the achievements of every member of the group.

What can the university hope to gain by a race preference program that can justify its costs? The “diversity” rationale for such programs — the claim that they benefit not the preferred students, but the school — is hard to take seriously. There is no reason to think, and no real empirical basis for the claim, that substituting a few under-qualified blacks and Mexican-Americans for better-qualified whites and Asians in a classroom or school improves anyone’s education. There are studies indicating that the opposite is true.

Nor can race preference programs be justified (the Supreme Court has held that they cannot be) as a remedy for disadvantage. If disadvantage were the concern, disadvantage would be the criterion. Race is not a proxy for disadvantage, because not all and not only blacks (or Mexican-Americans) have suffered disadvantage. In any event, racially preferential admission to selective institutions of higher education is not a program for the disadvantaged, but almost always only for the most advantaged. Indeed, today many of the preferred blacks come from the upper classes in Africa and the Caribbean. The UT Law School never denied a black preferential admission because he or she was not disadvantaged or was exceptionally advantaged. The result is that a racially preferred applicant with professional-class parents of high economic status will be granted admission while a better-qualified non-preferred applicant with working-class parents with at most a high school education is denied admission — the justice of which is difficult for most people to see.

Apart from all questions of principle or morality, the use of race preference in higher education must be rejected on the purely practical ground that the gaps in academic competitiveness that are involved are too great to be ignored or overcome. The source of the problem, as of all our racial problems, is the grim fact that the average black 12th grader performs at the level of the average white eighth grader in reading and math, making high school graduation a more serious problem for many than admission to a selective college. The average black college applicant scores about 200 points lower than the average white or Asian on the SAT, reflecting the average four-year deficiency in academic achievement. Rather than addressing this problem, racially preferential admission programs pretend that it doesn’t exist. Perhaps most discouraging, blacks from families with annual incomes in the highest economic quintile, score lower on the SAT than whites from families with incomes in the lowest quintile (849 vs. 869 in 1995). Further, the gap has actually increased in the last 10 years, not decreased as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor stated in her opinion for the Court in Grutter, the Michigan law school case, making her statement that preferences can be expected to end in 25 years pure fantasy.

Of the 10,500 blacks who took the LSAT in January 2002, 29 scored at or above the 92nd percentile, a very good score, but not good enough for admission to one of the top half-dozen schools, where the median LSAT is at or above the 98th percentile. At this level of qualification, the number of eligible blacks approaches zero. Former Harvard President Derek Bok’s estimate that without preferences the number of blacks at selective schools would drop to less than 1.5 percent was probably an overestimate.

The dispositive argument against racially preferential admission in higher education, however, is or ought to be that its primary effect is not to increase participation by blacks, but to create a mismatch by placing blacks in selective schools at least one level above the schools that they are fully qualified to attend. Blacks fully qualified to attend the selective University of Texas law school, for example, may find themselves instead in the much more selective Yale law school where they will be at an academic disadvantage. To meet a self-imposed quota, Texas will then admit underqualified blacks who would otherwise attend less selective schools.

It has now become clear that race preference admission programs typically do not operate to the preferred student’s advantage. Their relatively poor qualification — of which they are often unaware — usually leads to relatively poor performance, the bottom portion of the class and an increased dropout rate. Studies have shown what common sense indicates, that blacks (like everyone else) do better in terms of grades, graduation rates, admission to graduate schools and bar passage rates in schools for which they are fully competitive than in schools for which they are not.

A well-known study by law professor Richard Sander at UCLA concludes that “the production of black lawyers would rise significantly and blacks would be significantly better off” if law schools did not practice race discrimination. The nation has spent billions of dollars to encourage blacks and Latinos to study science and engineering — with very little success. Yet there is an easy way to do it — abolish preferential admission to selective schools. A study shows that blacks and Latinos actually sign up for science and engineering in good numbers, but then get discouraged and drop out when they can not keep up with the class because they are underqualified. When they can keep up in a less selective school, the chances are much better that they will graduate. If facilitating the movement of blacks into the economic and educational mainstream is the objective, racially preferential college and university admission is not merely unhelpful, but counterproductive.

Racial preferences send blacks the message they least need to hear, that they cannot and will not have to compete academically with whites and Asians. Perhaps the most harmful result is that it tends to create an expectation of a general “black exemption” from ordinary obligations and requirements. If blacks may properly be exempted from compliance with college and university admission requirements applicable to others, why may they not also be exempted from compliance with other requirements? That cannot, however, be the way to interracial harmony, integration and respect. A society in which it is generally understood that blacks cannot be expected to conform to the rules applicable to whites is a society in which blacks and whites will not be able to live together. Racial preference in higher education is a prescription for unending racial conflict and hostility as white and Asian parents will never cease to protest having their children place at a disadvantage in admission to selective schools.

Lino Graglia is the A. W. Walker Centennial Chair in Law at the University of Texas School of Law


The Week in the Rearview Mirror

The city of Austin is now prohibited from issuing criminal trespass notices to people gathered at City Hall Plaza. The case stemmed from Occupy Austin demonstrations last year, when the city banned protesters who were arrested at City Hall from returning for a year. Federal District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled the practice in violation of First Amendment free-speech protection. City attorneys are considering an appeal.

A study released by a national transportation research group shows Texas’ roads to be inadequate and deteriorating in quality, costing motorists $23 billion every year. The study, conducted by TRIP, details the woes Texans face traveling on state roads, including worsening congestion and a decline in pavement quality. 

Claims against Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, culminated in attack ads aired by her Republican adversary accusing the senator of conflicts of interest. Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, criticized the senator for peddling her legislative influence to attract public-sector and quasi-public clients. Davis denies the charges but was unwilling to identify the public-sector clients in question due to attorney-client privilege. Shelton took the further step of contacting the Travis County district attorney’s office public integrity unit to ask that Davis and the North Texas Tollway Authority be investigated for their relationship. Davis worked on two bills in the previous session that affected the tollway’s collections.

A state competition to educate residents about feral hogs and to encourage hunters to kill them offers rewards to the counties that are the most successful. The Hog Out County Grant Programs runs through the end of the year and awards counties points based partly on their collection of feral hog tails. The Texas Department of Agriculture will award cash prizes to the top three counties to be used toward programs to reduce the hog population.

A series of small earthquakes rattled Dallas last weekend. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the quakes were all less than 4.0 magnitude, the trigger mark for concern for damage and injuries. But the frequency of earthquakes since 2008, when fracking began in the area, has residents and scientists questioning if there might be a cause and effect. The agency is planning to install more seismic monitoring equipment near well sites.

A new statewide poll found an overwhelming majority of Texans would be willing to pay more in taxes if the funds went to more pay for teachers and specific improvements to schools. The Texas Lyceum conducted the poll, which asked respondents about a wide range of topics. Most would be okay with higher taxes, they said, if it meant more funding for teacher raises, instruction in art and music and for investments in computers and other high-tech equipment.

Gov. Rick Perry called on universities to freeze tuition for four years for incoming freshmen and for legislators to tie state funding to schools' graduation rates. He also renewed his call for schools to offer $10,000 degrees. Several schools across the state have accepted the challenge and offer such degrees, but the Austin American-Statesman’s analysis found them to rely substantially on financial aid and not to include the price of books. Two universities in the state system have implemented a tuition freeze for incoming freshmen. The price remains frozen if students graduate in four years but increases if they take longer.

Political People and their Moves

Gov. Rick Perry has named Suzy Whittenton of Austin director of administration for the governor’s office. Whittenton has served as chief financial officer for the governor’s office since November 2011.

Perry also reappointed Cydney C. Donnell of Fredericksburg to the Employees Retirement System of Texas Board of Trustees. Donnell is an executive professor, associate department head of finance and director of real estate programs at the Texas A&M University Mays Business School.

Becky Walker, formerly chief of staff to Railroad Commissioner Buddy Garcia, has been named policy analyst and media relations specialist for Sen. Kel Seliger. Betsy Bird will now serve as legislative director.

Greg Smith, chief executive of Clear Creek ISD in League City, was named superintendent of the year by the Texas Association of School Boards.

Tristan “Tris” Castañeda, previously the government relations manager at Baker Botts, has joined Longbow Partners, LLP as principal. 

Quotes of the Week

I probably should not have used the word 'troll,' but it's hard when someone keeps not telling the truth.

Sadler, after the debate, according to the Houston Chronicle

I'm a Democrat. My voting record is Democratic. This is not an endorsement of Republican ideals or the party. This is saying that this individual is an important part of our delegation and its ability to come out of our bitter past.

Rep. Marisa Marquez, D-El Paso, quoted by the El Paso Times after she was quoted praising Republican Dee Margo in his reelection materials

I'd like to have another opportunity where I'm not just a terrified freshman and go back to Austin knowing what to expect. A lawmaker's first term is enlightening at times, terrifying at others, rewarding and disappointing.

Rep. Connie Scott, R-Corpus Christi, in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times on her reelection bid

I'm sorry, Mr. Sadler, you believe I'm a troll.

Senate candidate Ted Cruz, debating Paul Sadler

What man in South Texas admits that, that he was bullied by Democrats? For shame, for shame.

Former Rep. and HD-43 candidate Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles on her challenger, Republican J.M. Lozano, who said he was bullied by his former party

It is a known fact that your staff engaged in a scheme with a third party to disenfranchise minorities in a flagrant violation of federal law.

Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, to House Speaker Joe Straus in a letter about the state's redistricting legislation

I love Big Bird, but I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for.

Mitt Romney, during the debate, saying he would cut the public TV budget if elected