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Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Lori Taylor

June 2008

Dr. Lori Taylor A native of Salina, Kansas, Lori Taylor began college planning to be a lawyer or an anthropologist. While studying economics at the University of Kansas, she recognized that she had a natural gift for economics and related subjects. After earning her B.A. in economics and a B.S in business administration (with a minor in anthropology), she studied international trade and public finance at the University of Rochester. While studying for her Ph.D. in economics, and thanks to the influence of Dr. Eric Hanushek, Dr. Taylor began to focus her interest on state and local government, with an emphasis on education policy.

Dr. Taylor's first job after graduate school was at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. There, Dr. Taylor was responsible for analyzing the regional impact of federal policy, and monitoring regional economic conditions. One memorable project was to analyze the possible effects in Texas of the health care plan proposed by First Lady Hillary Clinton. She also conducted research on the relationship between state and local economic growth, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and education policy. In 2000, Dr. Taylor took a one-year leave to work for the Texas Legislature, evaluating geographic variations in the cost of education.

In 2003, the Legislature commissioned a second study on the cost of education; Dr. Taylor was named principal advisor on this project, which she conducted after joining the Bush School. The project team also included Drs. Arnie Vedlitz, Director of the Institute for Science, Technology, and Public Policy, Timothy Gronberg, Dennis Jansen, and Bruce Baker. As a result of this important work, Dr. Taylor became one of the state's expert witnesses in litigation over how Texas should fund public education. While the case has been controversial, Dr. Taylor's expertise is this difficult area has been widely recognized.

The Bush School's focus on quality education directly complements Dr. Taylor's research interests, one reason she feels so at home here. She has developed a national wage index for college graduates, as part of a project for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The index allows comparisons of labor costs from one location to another, and Dr. Taylor is pleased that the NCES makes this research tool available to scholars and policymakers across the country.

Most recently, Dr. Taylor helped bring the Education Research Center (ERC) to Texas A&M University. The ERC's mission is to foster research that is a catalyst for improving policy and practice in education. When it gets fully established, the ERC will provide researchers at Texas A&M and around the world with access to high quality data on Texas' students, teachers and schools. The ERC here is one of only three in the state, and Dr. Taylor serves as a program area leader for finance, facilities, and organizations for the ERC.

Dr. Taylor is especially proud of having received the Silver Star award from Bush School students which recognizes outstanding faculty in the College. She is also on the board of directors of the American Education Finance Association, and is a research affiliate with the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University.

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