Topeka A House panel will travel to 16 cities this week, including Lawrence, to sell universities and community colleges on its plan to restructure higher education in Kansas.
Fighting skepticism, indifference and years of status quo, a panel formed to restructure higher education in Kansas will take its plan on the road this week.
``People are skeptical,'' said state Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, shortly after the panel's plan was distributed Tuesday on the floor of the Kansas House.
``I've heard most people say it's a start,'' said Ballard, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus.
The House Select Committee on Higher Education presented the House with a plan that would spend nearly $138 million during the next four years on higher education, including $50 million on property-tax relief for community college constituents.
The plan's financing section would bring faculty salaries up to peer levels in four years.
A member of the panel, Rep. Ed McKechnie, D-Pittsburg, said the plan would increase Kansas University's budget by 20 percent over the next four years.
One of its more controversial proposals would be to abolish the existing nine-member Kansas Board of Regents, which now oversees the state's universities. That board would be replaced with the ``Kansas Council of Higher Education.'' The new 11-member council would also oversee Topeka's Washburn University. And it would coordinate the missions of the state's 19 community colleges and 11 vocational-technical schools.
Rep. David Adkins, R-Leawood, who chaired the select committee, will lead members of the panel on a whirlwind tour of 15 cities Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The committee will meet at 2 p.m. Friday at the Apollo Auditorium at Nichols Hall on Kansas University's West Campus.
Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, said the proposal will give lawmakers a chance to debate increased funding for higher education.
However, Sloan predicted the plan faced a ``hard sell.'' He said most legislators aren't yet aware of what is in the plan.
Rep. Troy Findley, D-Lawrence, said because House Speaker Tim Shallenburger is behind the plan, legislators are taking the plan seriously.
``At the same time, there's a serious amount of skepticism,'' Findley said.
Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, said concerns she has heard about the plan mainly are about the amount of money in it and the proposal to abolish the regents.
``The dollar amount is ambitious,'' she said.
-- Dave Toplikar's phone message number is 832-7151. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.