Kansas Board of Regents said one of their biggest questions regarded future enhancements for salaries and other items for universities.
Kansas Board of Regents members on Tuesday viewed a proposal to overhaul governance of the state's postsecondary education system with raised eyebrows and a laundry list of concerns
The plan forwarded by the House Select Committee on Higher Education may address the coordination and financial concerns of community colleges, they said, but it could shortchange the six regents institutions, including Kansas University.
Although statewide coordination is important, ``I think it'd be a big mistake to do away with the regents system as we have it now,'' said regent Tom Hammond, who had planned to step down this month. ``I think it's a system that works well. It's not political.''
The proposal involves creating a new 11-member committee that would oversee seven state universities, two-year community colleges and vocational-technical schools. The current State Board of Education would continue to run kindergarten through 12th-grade education.
The new board would replace the Kansas Board of Regents, which has been in place in some form since 1926. The board was constitutionally mandated in 1976.
Among the largest concerns is the future of enhancements for salaries and other items for the universities. Under the plan, universities and community colleges would get $30 million over the first two years for program improvement, salaries and technology. Another $50 million for enhancements is included for fiscal years 2001 and 2002.
``The question is, what happens after that? There is no assurance of any specific amount going specifically to regents universities,'' Regents Executive Director Stephen Jordan said.
In light of an estimated $137 million in additional funds attached to the proposal, Jordan said that past coordination issues were not focused on money. Rather they were aimed at issues such as program review and approval, mission approval, distance education and geographical jurisdiction.
Regents also question the appointment process. Under the proposal, the board would be constituted of members who have interests in the state universities, community colleges, Washburn University and vocational-technical schools.
This process would make the board more political than it is now, Jordan said. Currently, regents are selected at-large by the governor.
``Our view is that would be a mistake,'' Jordan said.
Regent Kenneth Havner agreed.
``Historically, the Kansas Board of Regents has not been a political board,'' Havner said.
In addition, breaking up the board would affect continuity.
``It would take the new board two or three years to figure out its own agenda, and what direction it wants to go,'' Jordan said. ``What does that do for the regents universities? It seems to me that that sort of drops the ball for a period of time.''
The proposal, Havner said, is simply a property-tax relief program for counties with community colleges. Under the plan, community college property-tax mill levies are capped at 15 mills, and those that have mill levies less than 15 would get extra money as an enticement. The property-tax component was aimed to attract the support of Johnson Community College and its constituents. Community college officials have been skeptical of a plan to revamp higher education.
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