in Houston, Texas
26 UT System administrators, campus presidents may be in line for corporate-style incentive pay
Wednesday, Aug 22, 2012, 03:14PM CST
By Curt Olson
clocktower

One year after approving a strategy to improve accountability and productivity in the University of Texas System, regents could authorize a corporate-style incentive pay plan for 26 UT System administrators and campus presidents.

After all, if higher education must operate like a business, pay them accordingly, right?

UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa recommends that regents approve an incentive pay plan for the 15 campus presidents and 11 UT System administrators, giving them higher pay based on surpassing goals tied to saving money, research dollars, fundraising and graduation rates, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The plan is designed to gradually increase the percentage of their pay derived from performance goals. There’s no cap on that percentage.

While the UT System wouldn’t be the first university system in the nation to create such a pay plan, the proposal comes after reports this spring that Texas already has some of the highest-paid higher education leaders in the nation.

For the salary and total compensation of all higher ed administrators in Texas, read this report from the Legislative Budget Board.

Critics of higher education have targeted administrative bloat, the lack of productivity of tenured faculty, the record debt of about $1 trillion for college graduates nationally, and poor results in college student learning.

Would the bonus system do anything to address those criticisms? By one testing measure, UT Austin students do no better than their peers at other institutions by demonstrating no marked improvement between freshman and senior years, the Washington Post reported. Perhaps the 15 UT System campus presidents should have some measure of accountability for these results, as well as when learning outcomes improve.

Americans grew accustomed to well-paid corporate executives when times were good. If they make the company profitable, give them incentive pay.

However, Americans have witnessed some real head scratchers involving performance pay when companies received bailouts. One of the more famous ones in recent years was the controversy over bonuses paid to American International Group executives after the company crashed and received a taxpayer bailout.

So it might be worthwhile to put safeguards in this UT executive performance-pay plan if events don’t go as planned.

***
Contact Curt Olson at curt@texaswatchdog.org or 512-557-3800. Follow him on Twitter @olson_curt.

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Photo of UT's Main Building by flickr user ThisIsNotApril, used via a Creative Commons license.

Proposed UT medical school would carry 12-year price tag of $4.1 billion, could bring tax increase
Monday, Aug 06, 2012, 09:40AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
surgery

Leave it to nosy reporters to sully the noble notion of building a world-class medical school here in Austin.

For nearly a year, Austin’s own state Sen. Kirk Watson has been stumping for such a school, with a research center, a teaching hospital and associated neighborhood clinics. The University of Texas, the community, the state, the nation and the world would benefit.

Just as our hearts had swelled to near bursting, along comes the Austin American-Statesman to tell us that all of this medicine, education and all-around good feeling will cost $4.1 billion over the next 12 years.

The taxpayers of Travis County would pay $420 million of the total through a taxing authority called Central Health, which provides low-income health care services. With the numbers out of the bag, Central Health is now thinking it might be a good idea to calculate the potential property tax increase and put it to a vote in November, the story says.

This isn’t to suggest a medical school of this scale isn’t worth every nickel of that $4.1 billion. The money quite obviously wasn’t the issue for Watson, or the American-Statesman wouldn’t have had to file an open records request to compel the UT System to release spreadsheets of estimates that had been developed.

To avoid other, similar deflations of public pride, system officials have asked state Attorney General Greg Abbott for an opinion that would allow them to keep other records pertaining to the medical school secret.

According to the spreadsheets $233 million in debt would be financed to get started, building the needed classrooms, administrative and research buildings and adequately outfitting them.

The annual budget in the first year is estimated at $23 million. In 12 years that figure will have grown to $510 million.

Seton Hospital, which had originally made plans for a $250 million teaching hospital project, is now penciled in for $1.9 billion through 2024 for a share of the cost of operating a University of Texas medical school.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of surgery by flickr user VishalKapoorMD, used via a Creative Commons license.

Campus cops on alert for ‘unpleasantness’ when UT Brownsville announced layoffs
Monday, Jul 23, 2012, 02:23PM CST
By Steve Miller
police

Apparently afraid that an announcement of firings could cause some lawless outbursts, administrators at the University of Texas at Brownsville were warned by Police Chief John Cardoza that terminations “have the potential to generate unpleasantness and the possibility of negative reactions,” according to information released by the school to the Brownsville Herald.

“In anticipation of any incidents…from employees affected by the (reduction in force), the UTB Police Department has taken proactive measures to upgrade the level of security on campus,” Cardoza told the administrators in the newly released memo. “While these measures may not be as obvious to the community, they are nonetheless essential in assuring the overall safety of our campus citizens. Other measures represent internal steps taken by the university police to increase preparedness.”

The school announced the terminations of 100 faculty members, including some with tenure, in April.

The university fought the release of the memo to the newspaper,  claiming it was exempt under 552.108 of the Texas Government Code, which addresses law enforcement and “the detection, investigation or prosecution of crime…”

A July 11 ruling by the state Attorney General’s office forced the release of the information, noting that the school failed to cite a specific investigation or prosecution of a crime.

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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Photo of riot police by flickr user johncatral, used via a Creative Commons license.

Texas public college chiefs among most highly paid in nation
Friday, Jun 01, 2012, 09:09AM CST
By Steve Miller
graduation cap

The chief administrators at the University of Texas, Texas A & M and Texas Tech were among the highest paid public college presidents in the U.S. for fiscal year 2011, a new study from the Chronicle for Higher Education reports.

And all three university systems have both talked of/executed layoffs and enacted tuition increases in the past year, often complaining about a decrease in federal and state funding while doing so.

The UT Board of Regents in May increased tuition at the Austin campus by 2.1 percent for out-of-state undergrad students and 3.6 percent for grad students.

U-T Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa was paid $751,680 last year.

The UT–Pan American campus at Edinburg in South Texas laid off 26 staffers last year, citing budget cuts of $17 million.

At Texas Tech University, where Chancellor Kent Hance is paid $757,740, 800 layoffs were proposed and may still be coming.

“All the black ink is gone,” Hance said. “It’s all red, which is the color of blood.”  

In March, the university approved a tuition increase of 1.95 percent, generating $3.4 million in revenue.

Texas A&M Chancellor Michael McKinney retired last July with some financial security. But not before pulling in $1.966 million in 2011, making him the highest paid university head in the state and the second highest in the nation. Here’s his parting statement.

It was only February when new chief John Sharp  - who makes a paltry $507,300 - not-so-eloquently tried to quiet layoff rumors in the lower ranks: "When you are losing a million bucks a year, I would say that the chances are greater that employees will be laid off," Sharp said of the dining services operation.

And then there’s the tuition hikes approved in May for several A&M campuses. What’s a thinking high school grad to think of all this?

***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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Photo of graduation cap by flickr user K. Sawyer Photography, used via a Creative Commons license.

Administrators avoid the budget scalpel at many Texas school districts
Tuesday, Mar 13, 2012, 09:16AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
supplies

In a year when the Houston Independent School District lost 835 teaching positions, more than 400 by layoff, 21 administrative positions went away, less than half the teacher attrition rate.

The nearby Cypress-Fairbanks ISD shed 300 teaching positions by attrition and just two administrators. In El Paso, where the district was forced to get along without 241 teachers, those teachers were directed by seven fewer administrators.

Of the 10 largest school districts in Texas, five of them had teacher attrition rates at least 1.5 times higher than administrative losses. Fort Bend ISD’s rate was 4.7 times higher for teachers than administrators. This is based on documents from school districts following a request from Texas Watchdog, and for purposes of this analysis principals at school campuses and secretaries or other support staff working at schools or a central office are not included as administrators.

In a vacuum those numbers suggest districts making unpleasant decisions that exempt their top-ranking employees; that some districts are top-heavy or on their way; that in tough economic times teachers suffer disproportionately.

For free market public school reformers like the Texas Public Policy Foundation administrative bloat is taken as an established fact. In its study of public education spending trends, the Foundation’s Center for Education Policy notes that from 1949 to 2007 the percentage of teachers as a share of all school staff nationwide had steadily dropped from 70 to 51.

Many of the comparisons were made with California.

“Clearly, Texas is more top-heavy than California,” Bill Peacock, one of the authors of the study says. “California has more schools than Texas, but Texas has more principals.”

In a newly published blog titled “Wild Wild West Texas,” Connie Sadowski, with the Red Apple Project of the conservative watchdog Americans for Prosperity, rains down criticisms for the inefficiency of the El Paso district, including exorbitant salaries for the superintendent and 13 assistant superintendents.

Administrators in Texas schools

Whether El Paso employs too many or too few administrators for those big salaries, Sadowski says her research hasn’t hasn’t taken her that far.

What she is likely to find is the same thing Peacock discovered. For all of the reflexive talk of top heaviness, the research hasn’t taken anyone very far.  “It’s hard to come up with standards of comparison,” he says. “All districts are different, all states are different.”

It is tough to know what to make of the numbers at the top of this story without context. Some of the nation’s leading experts in public school design and productivity admit there isn’t a lot of context out there.

And without it, school boards, superintendents, legislators and the public lack the base from which to make some of the most important decisions in school finance.

Darvin Winick likes to call this lack of a base a peculiarity, a word he says he chooses with care. Winick is the director of the Institute For Public School Initiatives at the University of Texas. His involvement in public education goes back to his role as advisor to the 1984 Texas Select Committee on Public Education.

Winick was first a businessman and approaches problem solving in a business-like way. For many years Winick has advocated for a complete state auditing of all paid positions in the state’s public schools -- with a scope well beyond the annual staffing survey the Texas Education Agency conducts. Along with such an audit the state would create a uniform set of job descriptions that would allow for meaningful comparisons district to district.

“This state audits the districts as they should, but with the numbers that are sent to them by the districts,” Winick says. “The definition of administrator and teacher are not well-defined in this state.”

Legislation for state auditing has been introduced several times over the past several sessions and has gone nowhere. The peculiarity, as Winick calls it, persists because of a still ferocious demand for local control of school districts.

“It’s messy, and because it’s messy, there hasn’t been the political will to change it,” Winick says.

This despite the state’s increasing share of overall school spending in Texas. In the early 2000s with property values and taxes on the rise, the state’s share of public school spending stayed reliably below 40 percent, according to figures provided by the Legislative Budget Board.

(You can find a chart of those years on page 214 in the Board’s annual Fiscal Size Up for 2010-11 here.)

With the property tax relief bill of 2007 the state’s share shot up to 48.5 percent in 2008 and has hovered near 45 percent in the years since, the Budget Board figures show.

But at the same time the amount of federal funding for public schools has taken off. A search of the last five biennial fiscal reports published by the LBB shows federal funding at $5.7 billion in 2002-03, $8.3 billion by 2006-07 and with the added funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act at $13.3 billion in 2010-11.

Unlike the mostly discretionary local and state funding, federal funds, particularly the ARRA or stimulus funds, are tied to specific programs. Paul Hill, founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, says this program-driven funding has helped Balkanize school administrations.

Paul HillPaul Hill

“What you end up with are lots of federally funded programs, each with its own coordinator, and a complexity of funding streams that no one quite understands,” Hill says. “The underlying problem in most schools districts is you have growth without design.”

A year before Hill’s Center issued its 2010 report on performance in the Seattle public school system a district parent and business analyst submitted her own study to the School Board showing that the number of central administration positions grew by 48 percent while district enrollment declined by 7.5 percent between 1998 and 2009. During those years the total number of teaching positions decreased by about 4 percent.

Hill says he found dozens of instances of disgruntled or burned-out teachers given jobs in central administration offices to get them out of the classroom. In his work he has also found the satellite offices staffed by administrators deeply entrenched in their communities, for better and worse. He refers to these administrators as “warlords,” not likely to cede their authority.

In Seattle no more so than in Texas, this Balkanization often outstrips the ability and will of school boards and superintendents to be systematic and rational with their administrations, Hill says.

More difficult still if those intimidated boards and superintendents call for across-the-board cuts and settle for accepting the recommendations of the very administrative leaders whose vested interest is in perpetuating their departments, says Marguerite Roza, who has canvassed districts across the country for the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

None of this entrenchment protected administrators when the recession began enveloping the country late in the fiscal year for school districts in 2008, Roza says. Faced with last-minute decisions, many districts chose to lay off or thin by attrition their administrators.

The reasons, Roza says, were practical. Keeping teachers in classrooms is a priority to parents and taxpayers. Teachers are protected by unions and associations. Administrators are hired and fired at the will of the superintendent, she says.

Teachers in Texas school districts


Houston ISD made its first personnel cuts in central administration, district spokesman Jason Spencer says.

“We've been chipping away at central office for a decade, and many of those cuts already happened,” he says.

“This being said, it is difficult to cut many central office positions, many of which are necessary to ensure we are in compliance with state and federal mandates that have grown significantly in recent years.”

Which is why, facing $77.4 million less in state funding, Houston resorted to teacher layoffs and attrition in the last budget year. The district expects teachers to bear the brunt of an anticipated cut of $44 million in the coming budget year, he says.

In the last budget year the Dallas Independent School District reduced its overall teaching staff by more than 6 percent, from 10,639 to 9,994 teaching positions. The district, however, was forced to slash its district-wide administrative positions by 21.2 percent, from 888 to 700 administrator positions.

Among the 10 largest districts, Arlington, Fort Worth and North East (San Antonio) lost a higher percentage of administrators than teachers in the past budget year.

“It was one of the worst days I can ever remember in the district,” Dallas ISD spokesman Jon Dahlander said. “I can’t tell you where we were hurt the most. It was so across the board that everyone has had to pitch in to do more work.”

Jenny LaCoste-CaputoJenny LaCoste-Caputo

Among the administrative ranks across Texas there isn’t a lot left to cut, Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, spokeswoman for the Texas Association of School Administrators, says. LaCoste-Caputo’s observations are anecdotal. Even the association with this specific dedication has not undertaken any kind of systematic analysis of administrative staffing statewide.

She has used data from education consultant Moak, Casey & Associates to fend off charges that districts are top-heavy. The ratio of teachers and non-teachers has declined only slightly and has mostly been in balance since the 1989-90 school year.

Contrary to some criticisms, central and campus administrators make up about 4 percent of all school employees, Moak, Casey found.

The idea that school boards and superintendents have been dithering over the complexity of administrative cuts, LaCoste-Caputo says, is ludicrous.

“We haven’t had the luxury to suffer from that kind of paralysis,” she says. “I don’t think Texas has been that way for several years. And for at least the next budget year I think we are going to be in a cutting mode.”

That suits Sadowski and the Red Apple Project just fine. Reformers who have asked for reduced or more efficient school spending have for years been rebuffed, she says.

“School districts don’t want us to know how they are spending their money and how they make staffing decisions,” Sadowski says. “All you have to look at is El Paso to see all the inefficiencies.”

Peacock, however, is skeptical of any plan handed down from the state that would purport to know the administrative needs in each district.

“When you’re looking at a way to reduce those costs you hope the districts make the right choices,” Peacock says. “A top-down approach isn’t good when your goal is to decrease rather than increase bureaucracy.”

Peacock needn’t worry too much, Winick says. In the 1980s Winick took part in a years-long struggle to bring standardized testing to Texas public schools.

The arguments for local control were as loud and persistent against those tests as they are for administrative accountability today, he says. Political will often flagged.

“It dawned on me that I’ve been through this before,” he said. “I suspect we’ll have financial accountability someday in this state. Maybe just not for a while.”

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of supplies by flickr user BarbaraLN, used via a Creative Commons license.

Creative Commons License
Like this story? Then steal it. This report by Texas Watchdog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. That means bloggers, citizen-journalists, and journalists may republish the story on their sites with attribution and a link to Texas Watchdog. If you do re-use the story, e-mail news@texaswatchdog.org.

Supreme Court to weigh affirmative action case challenging UT admissions policies
Tuesday, Feb 21, 2012, 04:02PM CST
By Mark Lisheron
UT tower

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of two white, female students who sued the University of Texas arguing they were denied admission because of their race, Politico is reporting.

Lower courts here in Texas have found the admissions policies of the university constitutional, rejecting the suit by Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz filed on May 29, 2008. You can find the suit and track the case in those courts here.

Fisher and Michalewicz graduated just outside of the top 10 percent of their respective high school graduating classes, the legal threshold for automatic admission to UT in Austin. The suit argues, however, the school made unfair minority preferences when considering its unfilled openings.

The university contends it was allowed to use race to diversify its student population based on an unusual 2003 Supreme Court ruling on admissions policies at the University of Michigan.

The ruling came in two votes leaving room for interpretation about the role of race in choosing who can and cannot attend a school. Justices voted 5-4 to uphold the admissions policy of the Michigan law school and 6-3 to overturn the school’s undergraduate policy.

The high court followed those votes with a 5-4 decision in 2007 rejecting plans by the Seattle and Louisville public school systems to desegregate their classrooms by use of racial formulas.

***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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Photo of the University of Texas Tower by flickr user Niyantha, used via a Creative Commons license.

UT administrators steamroll over students, who say tuition panel violates open meetings law
Wednesday, Feb 01, 2012, 01:29PM CST
By Steve Miller
UT longhorn

An increase in tuition at the University of Texas was pushed through in the dark, and a conservative student group is advocating for open meetings when tuition increases are at stake.

The suggested increases came after unsuccessful attempts by the student newspaper, the Daily Texan, to attend meetings of the Tuition Policy Advisory Committee, a 9-member board that makes recommendations to the school’s administration.

The Young Conservatives of Texas claims the private meetings violate a provision of SB 5, which was passed last session.

It is basing its argument on a small amendment to the bill. That section states that meetings of student fee advisory committees shall be conducted “in a manner that is open to the public.”

TPAC arrived at a 2.6 percent tuition increase for in-state students and 3.6 percent for out-of-state students each of the next two years. Public forums were held after the board meetings, and the increases were approved and ready to present to the university’s Board of Regents for a sign off.

Not good enough, said Tony McDonald, senior vice chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas.

“They are sales presentations, held at the end of the semester when most students can’t attend,” McDonald told Texas Watchdog. “And at that point, they are not gathering public input.”

The final public forum for the recent proposed increase was Nov. 30, the Wednesday before the last day of the semester.

He said that the students on the committee – the law requires four – are “hand-picked,” and students are not elected to represent the student body before the administration.

“We want to be able to open up this process for the future,” McDonald said. “But at the same time, we are asking that the same remedy that is done for any open meetings violation, and that is that all business done in the dark has to be redone.

“Throw out the proposed tuition increase, and hold the meetings again with the committee in public.”

The Daily Texan story following the outcry over the lack of transparency included comments from Kevin Hegarty, the school’s chief financial officer and committee member, who is paid $379,173 a year.

The reason the meetings of the tuition board are closed “has to do with making people feel open to expressing their opinions,” Hegarty was quoted as saying.

Committee co-chair Steven Leslie, who is also provost of the University, “said he wants the tuition-setting process to be transparent, but the TPAC meetings are closed because members discuss confidential budget information,” according to the Daily Texan story.

Leslie is paid $381,023 a year.

The university’s top paid official is football coach Mack Brown, who receives $5.1 million a year.

The university two years ago announced layoffs and a $14.6 million annual shortfall.
 
***
Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.

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Photo 'Longhorn Bus Stop' by flickr user eschulz, used via a Creative Commons license.
Weekend Watchdog: Catch up this weekend on the best of Texas Watchdog’s reports filed this week
Friday, Dec 02, 2011, 11:05AM CST
By Trent Seibert
reading

Looking for some weekend reading? 

We’re starting a Friday feature that looks back at some of Texas Watchdog’s best work from the past week. If you missed some of our daily or featured reports, here they are, so you can get in some relaxing reading this Saturday and Sunday.

We’re also going to include in future Weekend Watchdog reports some of the best citizen journalism from around the state. Keep your eyes open, and e-mail suggestions to news@texaswatchdog.org or trent@texaswatchdog.org.

Here’s your Weekend Watchdog:

Special taxing districts - like the Montrose Management District in Houston - proliferate


You may have seen Texas Watchdog reporter Steve Miller's story this week on a Houston taxing district that just won't go away -- and its deep connections to Mayor Annise Parker.

It's not the only one. Special taxing districts are all over the state, and they're a major growth industry in Texas.

Read the full story here

Univ. of Texas professor wants creationist group off charities list


University of Texas Prof. David Hillis wants the State Employee Charitable Campaign to drop the Institute for Creation Research from its donations list.

It seems Hillis was browsing the Charitable Campaign website when he happened upon the Dallas non-profit, which boasts on the site that "science strongly supports the Bible's authority and accuracy."

But what about all the other charities that support a particular world view that are on the list?

Read the full story here

Public pension liabilities at $28,000 per household in Dallas: Study


The average Dallas family carries an added liability and debt burden of more than $28,000 because the city and state aren't fully funding the city's pension plan for its employees and retirees. And Dallas is a relative bright spot.

Read the full story here

Prez hopefuls - Gov. Rick Perry included - offer little to choose from on transparency


Are the presidential hopefuls champions for open government? They say they are, but their actions tell a different story -- and that includes Rick Perry.

Read the full story here

Texas state senator floats proposal for more state senators


Texas needs more state senators, an Amarillo state senator says. If you took the senator's thinking further, to the federal level, the U.S. Senate would get a boost of between 120 and 445 members.

Read the full story here

Texas windstorm agency plans for raises totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars


Department chiefs at the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association have been told to budget for an average of 3 percent pay increases at the troubled agency, which was taken over by the state in February when it was deemed unfit to carry on with business.

Read the full story here

Taxpayers foot $970,000 bill for celebrity chef's smokehouse on the Trinity River


Despite Local businesses in Fort Worth are chafing over a deal the city handed celebrity chef Time Love, whose $970,000 restaurant was paid for by taxpayers.

 


Read the full story here

 ***
Contact Trent Seibert at trent@texaswatchdog.org or 832-316-4994 or on Twitter at @trentseibert or@texaswatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpaceDiggFriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of ‘Sunday Reading' by flickr user fdrca'n'dave, used via a Creative Commons license.

$10.4 million stimulus grant subsidizes “green” cars for Austin residents
Friday, Sep 30, 2011, 11:48AM CST
By Mark Lisheron
Chevy Volt

While just a bit tardy to give the American economy of 2009 a jolt, a $10.4 million stimulus grant is just now being put to work getting Austin residents into electric cars at a steal.

Pecan Street, an environmental nonprofit based on the University of Texas campus, is using the grant to set up a kind of energy use laboratory in the recently developed mixed-use neighborhood where the Mueller Municipal Airport used to be, according to a story posted today by Texas Tribune.

Part of the experiment will be to study energy use by the Mueller residents lucky enough to get a $7,500 stimulus rebate on top of the $7,500 federal tax credit to buy one of the 100 electricity and gas hybrid Chevy Volts the company made available for the project.

Of the 200 residents taking part in the study, 140 have expressed an interest in the cars which have a base price of about $41,000 before all of the taxpayer support.

Best Buy, Intel, LG Electronics, Sony, SunEdison, Whirlpool and others will also be supplying appliances and solar panels for use and study by the Mueller neighbors. Researchers are also studying water and gas use by participants.

Texas Watchdog has written extensively about the federal stimulus in Texas, including “green energy” projects in Bedford and elsewhere that will take decades to recoup the $52 million in taxpayer funds used to build them.
 
***
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or mark@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpace, Digg, FriendFeed, and tumblr.

Photo of Chevy Volt by flickr user doc_savage_jr, used via a Creative Commons license.
UT faculty complain that data tracking their workload, salaries is not accurate
Wednesday, May 11, 2011, 03:34PM CST
By Steve Miller
UT longhorn

When the University of Texas rightly complied with the “promptly” element of the state’s Public Information Act, there was a cost: Some of the records provided to the querying party were not accurate.

 

As outlined in a story by The Chronicle of Higher Education, the university handed over a spreadsheet tracking workload and faculty salaries at the school early this month in response to a request from the Austin American-StatesmanThe data was compiled and available at the behest of a newly formed task force at the university, seeking to gauge productivity on the staffs of nine UT campuses.

 

Although the records were not complete, they were readily available and required to be released under state law.

 

From the story:

Thomas Kelley, a spokesman for the Texas attorney general's office, said in an e-mail that the state's Public Information Act "applies to records available on the date of request," even if the university system thought the records being requested were incomplete.

Professors and staffers complain now that the figures are incorrect and in many cases overstate their pay. Titles and location of employees are also mistaken in some instances.

 

One commenter at the Chronicle site complained that it was "very dangerous to release the data too quickly." Messy as it may be, it's the public's mess. A spokesman for the university explained that the data had not been fully verified, and citizens are discerning enough to understand there are sometimes inaccuracies in complex information.

 

The greater danger would be to hide or shield the information, or violate the Public Information Act's provision for prompt release, like the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association and Eanes ISD have done.

 

***

Contact Steve Miller at 832-303-9420 or stevemiller@texaswatchdog.org.


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Photo of Bevo, the UT longhorn mascot, by flickr user ilovemypit, used via a Creative Commons license.

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Serial shotgun robbers suspects arrested. http://t.co/ka8T4U9B
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Aren't State Dept career people suppose to be non-partisan? Not the political appointees, the career people. #Libya
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