Topeka Kansas University says it doesn't oppose a proposal by another university that would establish a program at Johnson County Community College to produce more teachers.
But KU continues to raise concerns about the move by Emporia State University.
The Kansas Board of Regents staff has recommended approval of the ESU initiative and a regents committee on Tuesday decided to put the issue on the full regents' agenda for consideration during its meeting Nov. 17-18.
The dispute is over a proposal by ESU to offer a program at JCCC where a student could get a bachelor of science degree in education with a major in elementary education.
ESU would provide faculty on the JCCC campus to complete the degree work. The program would be aimed at students in Johnson County who, because of finances, couldn’t move to Emporia and take coursework there. ESU has a similar program at Kansas City Kansas Community College and Butler Community College. No other university has a similar program in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
In a letter to the regents staff, KU Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter detailed two concerns.
Vitter said producing more teachers will saturate the market because recent state budget cuts to public schools have reduced the number of available teaching positions.
Vitter said KU did an informal survey of public school human resource directors. “In the Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission and De Soto school districts, there were 68 elementary teachers hired last year, with more than 12,000 applications filed for these openings -- an average of 175 applications for every elementary position hired!,” Vitter wrote.
And, he said, KU wanted to make sure that establishing the ESU program would not preclude KU from setting up additional partnerships with JCCC or other schools.
He said KU hasn’t pursued a formal education program at JCCC now because of the tight job market -- “training more students for nonexistent jobs would not serve students’ interests,” he said.
But Vitter said if conditions change, KU didn’t want to be shut out because of the ESU program, noting JCCC “is in KU’s natural geographic region.”
Tes Mehring, provost and vice president for academic affairs at ESU, said that while the job market for teachers was tight last year, that will be a short-term situation because a significant percentage of Kansas teachers are near retirement age, and nearly half of all teachers don’t remain in the profession more than five years. The initial group of 20 to 24 students who would start the program won’t graduate until December 2013, Mehring said.
Mehring also said ESU has talked with Kansas City-area superintendents and human resource directors and has been told there will be a significant need for elementary and secondary teachers in the near future.
As far as KU being precluded from adding programs at JCCC, Mehring said that is between KU and JCCC. Mehring noted that the ESU proposal was developed at the invitation of JCCC.