Monday, April 04, 2005

Top Ten debate shaping up

See Saturday's Houston Chronicle editorial on Top Ten





On March 30, students from the University of Texas, Texas A&M, LULAC, and UT Watch spent a few hours at the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education to testify in support of SB 333, authored by Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas), which would add a recommended high school curriculum that would include a requirement to take more Advanced Placement classes, or an equivalent, if offered. No one testified in opposition to this bill - well, the witness list showed one who registered in opposition, but it also listed the same person as testifying in favor of the bill.

The majority of the testimonies relied on arguments that Top Ten boosts not only racial diversity but class diversity (or, what they called "geographic diversity") by having institutions of higher education admit more students from rural areas, which generally have fewer resources than schools in more urban areas. Many also pointed to recent reports, such as that by the UT Admissions Office [PDF], which show that students admitted under Top Ten succeed at a higher rate once in college than those students not admitted under the law. Table 6 of this report shows that Top Ten college students have higher GPAs than other college students.

How Texans stand: according to the Corpus Christi Caller Times, 82 percent of Texans support the current Top Ten plan.

There were also several students and community members who made appearances at the hearing to testify for SB 320, authored by Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio), which would flat out repeal the law. Among those who showed up were members of the Young Conservatives of Texas. The right-leaning arguments heard for SB 320 were that universities ought to use more of a holistic approach to admitting high school students that looks at more than simply class rank.

Many pointed to the argument that students who attend highly competitive urban schools but graduate within the top eleven or twelve percent of their graduating class are unfairly discriminated against university admissions offices.

All in all, Top Ten will be a key debate during this Legislative session that is so heavily focusing on education. So far Wentworth claims he has roughly 15 senators on his side, as does West. Aside from Rep. Beverly Woolley's HB 750, which is a House companion bill to SB 320, all of the Top Ten bills will only cap the law - so these are essentially the two most politically polarized bills on the matter this session, and they're also the ones with the most promise of advancing. And they're both by well-known and heavily respected Senators. So I'm sure it doesn't hurt that West chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education - the committee that will hear each Top Ten bill.

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