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 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.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 in the calendar at the end of the syllabus.



Course Rationale


The purpose of this course is to provide you with the necessary knowledge and skills to participate in a democratic government. Democracy is a very difficult ideal to achieve because it demands that citizens be well informed on how the system works, as well as staying informed on current policies and participating through voting and other methods. Hopefully, this course will not only inform you, but also cause you to realize the importance of politics for your own life and for the society in which you live, work and raise your children.



Instructional Methodology


This course is designed to introduce you to the study of Texas state and local government and politics. We will look at the structure and function of major institutions, the causes of conflict within the political system and the role of values and ideas in politics and political conflict. Various facts, current events and theories will be integrated into our examination of Texas government to help you to understand politics and its significance and impact on your own life.


Effective preparation and meaningful participation are very important in determining the quality of this course. I believe that you learn by doing. Therefore, numerous individual and group activities are planned throughout the semester. These activities allow for much better understanding of the topics and make the class more enjoyable.


This course utilizes Blackboard as a supplemental tool for delivering course content, assignments, chapter quizzes, and study aides. You will find two chapters, "Local Government" and "Public Policy" located under the tabs on the left hand side of the course Blackboard site. The other tabs are labeled "Assignments", "Quizzes" and "Study Questions". You will also find a link to "My Grades" and I will post "Announcements" to communicate important information between classes. I will also send this information via email, so please activate you ACC gmail account if you have not already done so.





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.



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. 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, four written assignments and attendance and participation. There are twelve chapter quizzes, but only the top ten grades will be counted. There are five written assignments, but only the top four grades will be counted. In addition, attendance and participation will be calculated into your final grade (see below).The possible points are distributed in this manner:


Ten Chapter Quizzes worth 24 points each =††240 points

Four Writing Assignments worth 100 points each =††400 points

Attendance/Etiquette =30 points

Participation = 30 points

TOTAL = 700 points


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


630-700 points =†††††††† 90-100% =††††† A

560-629 points =†††††††† 80-89% =††††††† B

490-559 points =†††††††† 70-79% =††††††† C

420-489 points =†††††††† 60-69% =††††††† D

0-419 points = ††††††††††† 0-59% = †††††††† F



Chapter Quizzes


Each chapter has an online mulitiple-choice quiz with twelve questions worth two points each. The link to the quizzes is on the course Blackboard menu on the left side of the homepage. There is a total of twelve quizzes, but only the top ten quizz grades will count toward your final grade.


You should read each chapter on the assigned days (see calendar at the end of the syllabus) and answer the study questions provided. The link to the study questions is also on the left side of the home page. Your answers to the study questions should address all aspects of the question covered in the text, including links to charts and graphs. This is necessary to prepare for class discussion and will provide notes that you may use when taking the quizzes. The quizzes must be taken by the deadlines posted on the calendar.



Writing Assignments


There are four writing assignments that must be turned in by the deadlines listed on the calendar. Each writing assignment is worth up to 100 points and detailed instructions for each are located under the "Assignments" tab on the left side of the Blackboard course site. A fifth (optional) assignment is also included. This assignment may be used to replace an assignment that you did not do or one that received a low grade.



Attendance and Participation


The only way to make the class interesting and relevant to your life is for you to come to class prepared to discuss the assignmed reading and current news items. In addition, you will need to attend class regualrly in order to participate in the group work and legislative simulations planned throughout the semester. Therefore, a total of 60 points of your grade will come from attendance and participation. One point will be given for attendance each day you arrive to class on time, remain in class the entire time and refrain from disruptive or inattentive behavior. Likewise, one point will be given for participation each day you are prepared for class and contribute to the learning environment in a positive manner. Please do not ask for these points if you do not meet these criteria.



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.