Texas Proposition 4 (2009)

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Texas Proposition 4, also known as House Joint Resolution 14-2, appeared on the November 3, 2009 ballot in Texas as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved.

According to former Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby, supporter of the proposition, after the election: "Tonight's passage of Proposition 4 sends this important message: Texans understand that more nationally recognized research universities will help retain Texas-grown talent, recruit top researchers who will generate billions of dollars in economic growth and create more high paying, permanent jobs."[1]

If passed, the amendment will create an independent research university fund that will allow research universities in the state of Texas to "achieve national prominence as major research universities." To achieve the prominence of a Tier One research institute, a school must meet five out of seven quality standards. Included in these standards are awarding 200 doctoral degrees a year and having a $400 million endowment. A school must reach these standards before receiving any money for research. Furthermore, this amendment will eliminate the Texas higher education fund, and any payments for that fund due by July 1, 2010 will go to the research university fund. Seven schools are listed by the amendment that would receive the benefits of the research university fund. The seven schools are:

  • University of Texas at Arlington
  • University of Texas at Dallas
  • University of North Texas
  • Texas Tech University
  • University of Houston
  • University of Texas at El Paso
  • University of Texas at San Antonio

The temporary amendment was set to be in effect until January 1, 2011. The bill was authored by Representatives Frank Corte, Jr., Harvey Hilderbran, Charles Anderson, Ken Paxton and Bryan Hughes. Sen. Robert Duncan is the sponsor of the proposed amendment.

Election results

Texas Proposition 4 was approved by voters on the night of November 3, 2009. Unofficial election results follow:[2]

Texas Proposition 4
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 592,080 56.73%
No451,56143.26%

Text of measure

The short ballot summary Texas voters saw on their ballot was "The constitutional amendment establishing the national research university fund to enable emerging research universities in this state to achieve national prominence as major research universities and transferring the balance of the higher education fund to the national research university fund."[3]

Constitutional changes

See also: Amending the Texas Constitution

According to the enrolled version of HJR 14-2, the measure amends Article 7 by adding Section 20 to read as follows:

*(a) There is established the national research university fund for the purpose of providing a dedicated, independent, and equitable source of funding to enable emerging research universities in this state to achieve national prominence as major research universities.
  • (b) The fund consists of money transferred or deposited to the credit of the fund and any interest or other return on the investment assets of the fund. The legislature may dedicate state revenue to the credit of the fund.
  • (c) The legislature shall provide for administration of the fund, which shall be invested in the manner and according to the standards provided for investment of the permanent university fund. The expenses of managing the investments of the fund shall be paid from the fund.
  • (d) In each state fiscal biennium, the legislature may appropriate as provided by Subsection (f) of this section all or a portion of the total return on all investment assets of the fund to carry out the purposes for which the fund is established.
  • (e) The legislature biennially shall allocate the amounts appropriated under this section, or shall provide for a biennial allocation of those amounts, to eligible state universities to carry out the purposes of the fund. The money shall be allocated based on an equitable formula established by the legislature or an agency designated by the legislature. The legislature shall review and as appropriate adjust, or provide for a review and adjustment, of the allocation formula at the end of each state fiscal biennium.
  • (f) The portion of the total return on investment assets of the fund that is available for appropriation in a state fiscal biennium under this section is the portion determined by the legislature, or an agency designated by the legislature, as necessary to provide as nearly as practicable a stable and predictable stream of annual distributions to eligible state universities and to maintain over time the purchasing power of fund investment assets. If the purchasing power of fund investment assets for any rolling 10-year period is not preserved, the distributions may not be increased until the purchasing power of the fund investment assets is restored. The amount appropriated from the fund in any fiscal year may not exceed an amount equal to seven percent of the average net fair market value of the investment assets of the fund, as determined by law. Until the fund has been invested for a period of time sufficient to determine the purchasing power over a 10-year period, the legislature may provide by law for means of preserving the purchasing power of the fund.
  • (g) The legislature shall establish criteria by which a state university may become eligible to receive a portion of the distributions from the fund. A state university that becomes eligible to receive a portion of the distributions from the fund in a state fiscal biennium remains eligible to receive additional distributions from the fund in any subsequent state fiscal biennium. The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University are not eligible to receive money from the fund.
  • (h) An eligible state university may use distributions from the fund only for the support and maintenance of educational and general activities that promote increased research capacity at the university.

Qualifications of a Tier One school

Texas Tech University-one of the potential Tier One schools under Proposition 4

Emerging universities must achieve five out of these seven qualifications to receive funding proposed by Proposition 4:[4]

  • Qualified research expenditures of $45 million in both state fiscal years in the preceding state biennium.
  • $400 million in endowments.
  • Award 200 doctorates each year.
  • A high-achieving freshman class (high SAT scores, class rank).
  • A Phi Beta Kappa chapter or membership in the Association of Research Libraries.
  • High-quality faculty (i.e., members of national academies).
  • Excellent graduate education.

Support

Arguments

Former Texas Lt. Governor Bill Hobby went on record to support the measure, arguing the jobs creation that the measure would bring. Hobby, who resides in Houston, states that the fund proposed by the amendment will help boost the University of Houston and others listed to national recognition and prominence. According to Hobby: "The downside is we watch many of our best students continue to go out of state. We're just watching money flow out the door."[5]

The group Texans For Tier One supported the measure, stating the constitutional amendment would do the following:[6]

  • Creates National Research University Fund
  • Tier One funding for 7 emerging research universities in Texas
  • Creates advanced higher education alternatives for Texas college students
  • Enhances economy of the entire state of Texas
  • Existing dormant funds transferred – no new money allotted

Research on Proposition 4

In a research conducted by economist Ray Perryman and released on October 14, 2009, the amendment would create at least a million more jobs and add billions of dollars in tax revenues. Perryman promoted the passage of Proposition 4 in Austin during that week, along with former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and James Huffines, co-chairs of the group Texans for Tier One. According to Huffines: “Unquestionably, the jobs of the future are going to follow the brainpower.”[7]

Opposition

Arguments

In an overview of Proposition 4 by the Dallas Morning News, the publication listed the arguments against the proposed amendment. Although the newspaper listed the arguments against the measure, the newspaper went on record to endorse it. The argments against the measure follow:

  • The state should concentrate on awarding funds to the few institutions that are the closest to having Tier One status, not spreading the funds to other schools who are still struggling to attain that elite status.
  • The amendment does not include a “sunset” provision, meaning there is no period where the effects of this amendment would be reviewed to see if it is creating a positive or negative result on the state’s economy.[8]

The Young Conservatives of Texas were the first group to state their opposition to Proposition 4, stating:

  • Emphasized efforts towards transforming the seven listed schools into research universities would stunt the education of the students at those schools.
  • Citing a study done by the Texas Public Foundation in 2008, the group pointed out that, to date, state universities have spent $9 billion on research, but only generate $8.3 million in annual income.
  • According to vice chairman of legislative affairs, Tony McDonald: “So many of our classes are taught by teaching assistants or very young, inexperienced professors. And we are seeing that these ‘great’ professors are teaching practically no classes. The state would be better off using the money to teach students.”[9]

Campaign contributions

$274,202 was reported to have been contributed to campaigns relating to Proposition 4, all in support.[10]

Support donors

Date Committee Amount
October 1 Texans for Tier One $100,000
October 26 Texans for Tier One $150,102.85

Media editorial posititions

The University of Texas at Ausin-a Tier One school

Editorial boards in support

Main article: Endorsements of Texas ballot measures, 2009
  • The Austin Chronicle supported Proposition 4. Of the proposition they said, "A valiant attempt to provide potential research funding to institutions other than the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M, in the hopes of eventually expanding the number of major research universities statewide. Good luck, since we don't fund the ones we have."[11]
  • The El Paso Times supported proposition. The editorial board said,"This would establish a national research university fund that would help emerging research universities achieve greater recognition on the national scene. In UTEP's case, it could help the university in its quest for Tier 1 status. Best of all, the National Research University Fund would be funded by transferring the balance of the Higher Education Fund to the NRUF -- no burden to taxpayers."[12]
  • The Star-Telegram was in favor of Proposition 4. "Texans have to be getting tired of lists that show their state ranking way behind others, especially when it comes to education. In the Nov. 3 constitutional amendment election, they have a chance to start making things right, at least in one crucial way. Proposition 4, if approved by voters, will provide a way to help more Texas universities grow to become nationally recognized for their research, what’s often called "Tier 1" among U.S. institutions of higher learning," said the editorial board.[13]

A Houston Chronicle editorial published on October 3, 2009, in support of the measure, argued:

  • States such as California and New York have multiple Tier One research schools, and Texas only has three (University of Texas, Texas A&M and Rice University).
  • Texas schools have emerged as potential top tier institutions and the amendment would further assist these universities to reaching that status.
  • According to the editorial: "We need to train the super-skilled workers that businesses crave. But instead, every year Texas loses thousands more freshmen to out-of-state top-tier universities than it attracts. We can't afford that brain drain."[14]

According to San Antonio-Express columnist Jan Jarboe Russell, backers of the measure also stated:

  • The amendment wouldn’t be costly to taxpayers because the money used to make universities strong research institutions would be from an old account called the Texas Higher Education Fund.
  • The higher education fund has been dormant and would be put to use if the amendment is passed in November.
  • The passage of the amendment would give cities like San Antonio a boost in economic status. The University of Texas at San Antonio would be considered one of the seven schools that would be potential research universities.
  • Russell stated UTSA still has requirements to meet, and lists them throughout her writings. She states that if the university meets those mandates, ."..we won't just have a Tier One public university. We'll have a Tier One city."[15][16]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing direct democracy in Texas

The Texas House of Representatives approved the proposed amendment on May 11, 2009 with a vote of 144-0, followed by the State Senate on May 25, 2009 with a vote of 30-1.[17][18]

As laid out in Article 17 of the Texas Constitution, in order for a proposed constitutional amendment to be placed on the ballot, the Texas State Legislature must propose the amendment in a joint resolution of both the Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives. The joint resolution can originate in either the House or the Senate. The resolution must be adopted by a vote of at least two-thirds of the membership of each house of the legislature. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Senate.

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