Old grudges bedevil Texas higher education debate

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson talks about the current battle in the Legislature over funding for Texas education.

As the debate over the future of Texas’ higher education continues to swirl, it's increasingly intertwined in old political rivalries and long-held grudges and resentments.

“It’s an old fight where politicians see the leaders of the state university as distant and arrogant,” says Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “The idea of educational excellence is one Texas has always been ambivalent about.”

Historically, the political fallout has come down hard on both sides. In the early 20th century, Texas Gov. James “Pa” Ferguson’s meddling with the University of Texas sparked the ultimately successful effort to impeach and remove him. In the 1940s, it was University of Texas at Austin President Homer Rainey who lost his job when he battled with Gov. W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel’s appointed regents. And those are just two examples.

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