Honors Texas State and Local Government

Austin Community College



Instructor: Karry L. Evans††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Office: Room 3118 Bldg. 3000

Phone: 512-223-3394†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1218 West Avenue .

Fax: 512-223-3414†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Austin, TX 78701

Email: kevans@austincc.edu



Course Description


This course is an honors course designed to provide you with a framework for analyzing Texas state and local government, including the constitutional basis and the institutions, processes and policies of Texas state and local government. In addition, the course includes a number of assignments and activities designed to involve you in Texas state and local government and increase your understanding through first hand experience. It is worth 3 credit hours.



Needed Resources


The required text is available free online at texaspolitics.laits.utexas.edu. There are also two additional chapters included on the Blackboard site for this class. The link to Blackboard is on my home page and the ACC home page. The proper sequence for reading the chapters is listed under the information on tests.



Instructional Methodology


This course incorporates critical thinking, active learning, field experience, and collaborative learning through a combination of lecture, class discussion, and individual and group assignments and activities. These activities include attending political meetings and events and participation in a legislative simulation of the Texas Senate.


You will need to work both on your own and with fellow students to complete your assignments. Working with others is an integral part of politics and it is hoped that you will learn from other students, especially when necessary to bargain and compromise in order to accomplish your goals in the legislative simulation. This will give you a better understanding of what politicians and other public officials have to do on a daily basis and illustrate the importance of consensus building in a civil and constructive manner in a democracy.







There is no single, correct way to view Texas politics. During the course of this semester, I urge you to be open-minded, to engage in critical thinking and to question text and lecture materials, as well as other supplemental sources of information. My view of education includes the notion that the classroom is a community of scholarship. This requires an open-minded approach to the topics and consideration of other opinions. In order to get answers you must ask questions and the best questions follow from reading, thoughtful analysis of the material and listening to others.


Openness to the opinions and ideas of others is a key element in getting the most benefit from class discussions and group activities, especially the legislative simulation. It is necessary for you to be respectful and open to the opinions of other students when you are debating and trying to pass bills in the Texas Senate simulation. This will facilitate the discussion of different ideas and illustrate what is necessary to work out differences and arrive at workable compromises in the real Texas Senate.



Course Goals


The following is a list of the main goals this course is designed to help you achieve. After completion of the course you should be able to:


  1. Understand the foundations, development and features of the Texas Constitution.
  2. 2. Understand how media, interest groups and political parties serve as institutions to connect people to Texas state and local government.
  3. Understand how political values, attitudes and behaviors are learned, organized and expressed.
  4. Understand the operation of a political campaign, types of elections, and the factors that effect election outcomes in the Texas political system.
  5. Understand the structure, functions and operations of the institutions of state and local government.
  6. Understand the development and implementation of public policy in Texas.


In addition to these objective goals, this course is designed to help you achieve the following subjective goals. These are the outcomes that I hope you will realize after completion of this course. You should be able to:


  1. Understand the relevance of politics to your own life. Understand the need for citizen involvement in policymaking.
  2. Understand the need for compromise in a democratic process.
  3. Understand your power to make a difference in state and local politics.





Grading and Course Requirements


Your grade will be whatever you want it to be. I do not grade on a curve; consequently everyone can earn an ďAĒ. Your grade will come from a total of ten chapter quizzes, two research papers, two outside events, seven news summaries, seven internet assignments, and attendance and participation. The possible points are distributed in this manner:


Ten Chapter Quizzes worth 36 points each =†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††360 points

Two Research papers worth 100 points each = †† † †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 200 points

Two Outside Events worth 50 points each =††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††100 points

Seven News Summaries worth 10 points each = ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 70 points

Seven Internet Assignments worth 10 points each =†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††70 points

Attendance and Participation worth 100 points each = †† ††††††††††††††††††††††† 200 points

TOTAL††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† 1000 points


Letter grades will be assigned based on the total number of points accumulated.


900-1000 points =†††††† 90-100% =††††† A

800-899 points =†††††††† 80-89% =††††††† B

700-799 points =†††††††† 70-79% =††††††† C

600-699 points =†††††††† 60-69% =††††††† D

0-599 points =†††††††††††† 0-59% =††††††††† F


Chapter Quizzes


There will be an online quiz for each of the tweleve chapter, but only the top ten quiz grades will count. Each chapter quiz has tweleve questions worth three points each for a total of thirty-six points. The quizzes are located under the "Chapter Quizzes" tab on the course Blackboard site. The timer is set for fifteen minutes.




Attendance and Participation


Class attendance is mandatory, but it is not enough to just show up. The only way to make the class interesting and relevant to your lives is for everyone to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned reading and current news items for the day. It is also necessary for participation in group activities and the legislative simulation that everyone makes a commitment to attend class except when impossible to do so. Therefore, 20% of your final grade will be based on attendance and participation.


News Summaries


You are required to stay informed about the policy debates and issues affecting Texas state and local politics today. You will need to read news articles published in major Texas newspapers, magazines and other periodicals. There are seven summaries due during the first half of the semester. Each summary must be typed, between thirteen and twenty-three lines, and include the source, title and date published. Each summary is worth ten points for a total of seventy points.



Internet Assignments


You are required to familiarize yourself with a number of governmental and non-governmental websites dedicated to Texas state and local politics. You will need to access information on these websites and answer a series of questions about the relevant information you find. Your assignment should be typed and between thirteen and twenty-six lines. Each assignment is worth ten points for a total of seventy points.



Political Events


This assignment requires attending two political events or activities related to Texas state and local politics and writing a detailed report on each event.


There will be a large number of events throughout the semester that will qualify. Some take place on a regular basis, such as meetings of the Texas legislature, city councils, county commissionerís courts, and various political groups and parties (LWV, SOS, ACLU, Libertarian Party, Green Party, etc.). Other events are listed in the Community section of the Statesman and the Chronicle. UT also has many political groups that sponsor events. Any interest you may have, whether it is the environment, civil liberties, education, etc., you will find groups devoted to that topic. You may not attend two meetings of the same organization.


The written portion of the assignment consists of a detailed report on each of the two events. Each report must be typed and a minimum of two pages (46 lines), double-spaced, and in a normal 12 point font. (FYI: This syllabus is typed in a normal 12 point font). The content of the report should be the important political issues that were discussed. You will need to take notes or record what is said in order to do this. I do not want a narrative about who was there and what happened. You should focus on what was said about substantive political issues. Each report is worth 50 points for a total of 100 points.






Research Papers


You are required to write two research papers on the subjects of the bills you introduce in the legislative simulation. The main portion of each paper should contain the information you obtained from news articles, interest group web sites, and state legislature web sites about current and proposed legislation in Texas and other states. You will organize the information in a formal paper with parenthetical citations and a works cited page in standard MLA format. The research portion of the paper should be a minimum of three pages.


Included with each research paper should be the actual bill you introduced in the Senate simulation and a copy of the final version, if different. The final portion of the paper should be an analytical essay in which you discuss the debate surrounding your bill, both in the simulation and in the real political environment. You should include what happened to the bill along the way, including why it was amended and whether it passed or not and why.


Incomplete Policy


In the event that a student successfully completes 2/3s of the coursework, but fails to attend sufficient classes to adequately fulfill the remaining requirements and has acceptable documentation explaining the reasons (hospitalization, incarceration, military duty) for their inability to do so, I will give an Incomplete final grade. You are then responsible for making arrangements with me to fulfill the remaining course requirements by the end of the next semester. At that time, the Incomplete will be changed to the appropriate letter grade in your files.



Withdrawal Policy


Another alternative in the case of failure to attend class or meet the course requirements, is to officially withdraw from the class. It is your responsibility to officially withdraw from class if necessary. Withdrawal forms are available from the Admissions Office.



Evaluation and Feedback


There will be continuous evaluation of your performance and my performance throughout the semester. I will give you regular feedback through evaluation of your performance on quizzes and unit tests and through conversations with you about your participation in group activities and discussions. In return, I will be asking for periodic feedback from you concerning this course and my performance as your instructor. All of this is designed to allow everyone to perform to the best of their ability and improve the overall content and dynamics of the course.


Instructor Conferences


My office is located in Room 212 in the Attache building at 1209 Rio Grande. I am available for consultation during my posted office hours. If you need to meet with me at a different time, you can talk to me during class, email me or call my office at 223-3394 and make an appointment.


Scholastic Dishonesty


As described in the ACC Student Handbook, scholastic dishonesty constitutes a violation of college rules and regulations and is punishable according to the procedures outlined in the Handbook. Scholastic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating on an exam (either providing answers to or stealing answers from another student), plagiarism and collusion. Plagiarism includes use of another authorís words or arguments without attribution. Collusion is defined as the unauthorized collaboration with another person in preparing written work for fulfillment of any course requirement.


In the event of scholastic dishonesty, I will meet with the student to discuss the alleged offense. If evidence supports the charge, I will inform the student and the Assistant Provost in writing. The Assistant Provost shall asses a penalty appropriate to the charges and shall inform the student of such in writing. The student may appeal the decision of the Assistant Provost.


Disability Services


If you have a documented disability and wish to request accommodations, you should contact the Office of Students with Disabilities at 223-3142. The office is located in Room A155. The office director will meet with you and recommend appropriate accommodations and services after you have submitted the required documentation. Individuals eligible for services include, but are not limited to, those with chronic problems related to health, mobility, orthopedic, hearing, vision, speech, traumatic head injury, attention deficit, learning or psychiatric disabilities.



Academic Freedom


Each student is strongly encouraged to participate in class discussions. In any classroom situation that includes discussion and critical thinking, particularly about political ideas, there are bound to be many differing viewpoints. Students may not only disagree with each other at times, but the students and instructor may also find that they have disparate views on sensitive and volatile topics. It is my hope that these differences will enhance class discussion and create an atmosphere where students and instructor alike will be encouraged to think and learn. Therefore, be assured that your grades will not be adversely affected by any beliefs or ideas expressed in class or in assignments. Rather, we will all respect the views of others when expressed in classroom discussions.


My Pledge to You


Ÿ         I will do my best to instruct this class and to increase your understanding of American national government.

Ÿ         I will be kind and respectful to you as long as you treat me with the same kindness and respect.

Ÿ         I will be fair in grading and expectations.

Ÿ         I will do everything I can to make class interesting and applicable to your life.

Ÿ         I am interested in who you are and what you do.

Ÿ         I will be available to meet with you. If you need to meet with me and cannot make it to my office hours we will work out another time to meet.



My Expectations of You


Ÿ         You will arrive to class on time and remain until class is dismissed.

Ÿ         You will read the assigned chapters before coming to class and be prepared to discuss the issues covered in those chapters.

Ÿ         You will complete all assignments and turn them in on time.

Ÿ         You will conduct yourself in a mature manner appropriate for a college student and not disrupt class by talking when I am presenting information to the class.

Ÿ         You will show respect for me and your fellow classmates.

Ÿ         You will let me know when you do not understand the material or have difficulty with homework assignments or tests.





This course guide represents the course as it was planned prior to the beginning of class. I will make every effort to adhere to all the policies and procedures outlined above. In the event any changes are necessary, I will let you know.