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Endorsement watch: Prop 4

The Chron begins its warmups for endorsement season by giving its nod to Prop 4, the easiest call on the ballot.

The ballot language is impenetrable, in the way that our constitutional amendments always are. But the plan itself is easy to understand.

The state has designated seven “emerging universities”: The University of Houston — go, Coogs! — along with Texas Tech, the University of North Texas, UT-Dallas, UT-El Paso, UT-Arlington and UT-San Antonio. As those seven prove that they’re emerging still further, heading for the Tier One big leagues, they’d be allowed to tap into a $500 million education fund to help them go all the way.

The exact definition of Tier One varies (How many dollars in research grants? What average SATs?). But by everyone’s reckoning, Texas now has only three of those big-deal schools: Rice, UT-Austin and Texas A&M. That’s a puny number, considering that California alone has nine; New York, seven; and piddling Pennsylvania, with a population half the size of ours, has four.

Such comparisons wound a Texan’s pride. And worse, they reflect a threat to the Texas economy. These days, global competition is about smarts, not natural resources. 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.

But we can afford Prop. 4, even during this miserable recession. That’s because the $500 million would come from a defunct education fund that Texas scraped together years ago. That means no new taxes.

Can we say that again in case anyone missed it? No new taxes.

And, um, in case you’re texting and driving as you skim this: NO NEW TAXES!

How easy is it to love this amendment? Consider how hard it is to hate: We don’t know of anyone opposed.

I’m sure there will be plenty of people voting against Prop 4, whether out of ignorance, malice towards public education, or just a reflexive teabaggerish antagonism to all things government. Fortunately, I expect them to be a relatively small number in total, and this will pass with a substantial majority. And maybe now that the Chron has gotten started doing endorsements, they’ll get them all done in a timely manner. I can hope, right?

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