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Archive for Wednesday, February 4, 1998

COMMITTEE LEANS TOWARD ABOLISHING KANSAS BOARD OF REGENTS

February 4, 1998

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— A legislative panel studying higher education governance is leaning toward abolishing the Kansas Board of Regents.

Rep. David Adkins began the meeting by writing in bright blue bold letters on a chart, "Regents: To Be or Not to Be."

"It's an issue we need to resolve," the Leawood Republican told the eight other members of the House Select Committee on Higher Education on Tuesday.

The committee, which Adkins chairs, is still far from resolving that question -- but a poll Adkins took of members during the meeting showed none would object to pulling the plug on the Kansas Board of Regents, the group that governs the state's universities.

The committee is still far from determining what type of entity, if any, would replace the regents.

The panel, which is trying to get a recommendation to the House by early next week, will meet again this afternoon.

House Speaker Tim Shallenburger says he will come up with a plan this year to better coordinate the state's four-year and two-year colleges and vocational-technical schools. The Board of Regents oversees the state's six public universities, while the Kansas State Board of Education oversees community colleges and vocational-technical schools. Washburn University, the municipal school in Topeka, receives some funding from the regents but is overseen by its own board.

Some committee members believe the state's higher education system would be more efficient if it were governed by one body. However, the biggest problem legislators are battling is the mistrust advocates of community colleges have toward the regents.

"I want a unified budget," Rep. Ed McKechnie, D-Pittsburg, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said at one point during Tuesday's meeting. "And I want legislators to stop hating each other over this issue."

McKechnie is the lead supporter of efforts to scrap the Board of Regents on June 30, 2000, and create a new 11-member Board of Curators.

On July 1, 2000, the new board would govern KU, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Kansas State University, Pittsburg State University, Washburn University and Wichita State University. It also would govern community colleges and area vocational-technical schools.

However, several members representing community college interests said they oppose being governed by a board that also oversees regents institutions. They don't believe such a board would treat community colleges and four-year schools equally.

As a compromise, Adkins suggested continuing the existing structure but setting up a higher education coordinating agency under the state's executive branch.

Committee members didn't embrace Adkins' idea.

Rep. Henry Helgerson, D-Wichita, said he saw no reason to support a proposal that doesn't change the existing structure.

Rep. Jim Garner, D-Coffeyville, a strong advocate for community colleges, said "this has got to be a fresh approach to a new board."

Others agreed with the idea of scrapping the regents and creating a new board to oversee all of higher education.

"A second marriage doesn't have much chance if the new wife is moving into the old wife's house," said Rep. Janice Pauls, D-Hutchinson.

-- Dave Toplikar's phone message number is 832-7151. His e-mail address is toplikar@ljworld.com.

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