How do Texas cograduatesllege students know their tuition money and the share of taxes their parents paid that go towards higher education are actually used for expenditures that enhance the education they receive?  Unfortunately, they don’t because the state’s higher education budget is anything but transparent.   Now, columnist Clay Robison reports that Governor Rick Perry is courageously seeking to change that.

According to Robison’s piece that was featured in the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, Perry wants to undo the chicanery of the then Democrat-controlled State Legislature in 1987, which made the higher education budget one lump sum without line items.  Due to this fiscally irresponsible approach, it is not now possible for the Governor to scrutinize and veto line items in the higher education budget.

As we noted in a previous posting, the State Auditor has found that higher education institutions in Texas are increasing their full-time employees (FTEs) at a rate of 26.1 percent since 1997 while state agencies have reduced their FTEs during this same period.  Moreover, higher education administrators routinely make six figure salaries in addition to perks such as housing and auto allowances – the 2006 salary supplementation schedule filed by the University of Texas System shows that the Presidents of their various institutions make between $257,000 and $621,000 per year, with several making over half a million dollars.  Plus, these amounts don’t include perks and benefits.

Lifting the veil of impenetrability that now exists in the higher education budget will also facilitate an effort to examine policies like tenure, which makes professors unaccountable for performance, and allowing sabbaticals of a year or longer, which reduces teaching productivity.Â

The bottom line is that, as long as Texas taxpayers are paying part of the bill, higher education should not be sacrosanct from the Governor’s authority to review the budget and, where appropriate, utilize his veto pen to ensure taxpayers and students that public funds are being spent responsibly.