Topeka If necessary, the Kansas Board of Regents agree to assume authority of the state's 19 community colleges.
The Kansas Board of Regents agreed Thursday to passively support a bill that entrusts it with coordination of community colleges in Kansas.
The action followed board passage in December of a resolution stating a single board should have authority over Kansas higher education.
In that vein, regents Thursday voted unanimously to back a House bill that would transfer control of 19 community colleges from the State Board of Education to the Board of Regents. Endorsement would be contingent on adoption of a series of amendments drafted by regents.
Board members plan to stay on the sideline as long as possible by not actively lobbying legislators on the bill.
The bottom line for the nine people appointed to the Board of Regents, and university leaders they hired, is preservation of the Board of Regents.
"When you've got a system that works pretty well overall ... I don't want that jeopardized," said Sid Warner, a regent from Cimarron.
Kansas University Chancellor Robert Hemenway said demise of the Board of Regents would be a blunder. Currently, he said, the board makes sound educational decisions without regard to partisan politics.
"The greatest strength is the fact that there is not a tradition of politicization of this body," Hemenway said.
If the Legislature decided regents should supervise community colleges, Kansas State University President Jon Wefald said the change could benefit taxpayers.
"There needs to be more coordination of institutions in all of Kansas," he said.
He said Cloud County Community College and Highland Community College had moved deeper into KSU territory. He said the colleges were offering classes that weren't as academically formidable as those offered at KSU. That's unnecessary and wasteful academic duplication, he said.
"The courses are not as rigorous," Wefald said. "I think it's getting serious."
Regents voted to oppose a handful of bills and resolutions related to governance reform of higher education in Kansas.
"I think we need to have our guns loaded," Warner said. "Several of the proposals would be a disaster."
Measures opposed by regents:
- House Bill 2146. Introduced by Reps. Tom Sloan and Ralph Tanner, R-Lawrence, it would delete the authority of the Board of Regents to hire an executive director and allow appointment of a commissioner of higher education who would be the regents executive director.
- Senate Concurrent Resolution 1607. It would eliminate all constitutional references to the state Board of Education and Board of Regents. The Legislature would establish a new system of governing education.
- Senate Bill 358. Introduced by 12 senators, it would require each regents university to have at least one but no more than two alumni members on the regents board.
- Senate Bill 359. It would establish a Kansas Department of Education with a governor-appointed education secretary. The Board of Regents would be eliminated.
- Headcounts down at regents schools. Page 1B.
- Students, regents push budget ideas. Page 8B.