Archive for Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Kansas House committee wants Board of Regents to study benefits of privatizing many functions at state universities

Kansas Rep. Joe McLeland, R-Wichita, on Tuesday explains his proposal to have the Kansas Board of Regents study whether to privatize jobs on public college campuses.

February 22, 2011


— The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a provision that tells the Kansas Board of Regents to conduct a study on whether it would make economical sense to privatize many of the jobs at public colleges.

State Rep. Joe McLeland, R-Wichita, successfully put the proposal in the higher education budget that will now go to the full House for consideration.

McLeland said he wants the regents to study whether to privatize the operation of physical plants, janitorial services and other functions and services.

For example, he said, there are hotel chains that are experts in housing. Perhaps, he said, dorms could be sold or leased to them.

State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, opposed McLeland’s amendment. She said residence halls are more than places for students to sleep. They are homes for students where they participate in programs and can receive help. “Sometimes, privatizing will not quite do that,” she said.

But state Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, supported doing a study, noting the state’s financial problems. Kansas faces an estimated $492 million revenue shortfall in the next fiscal year.

“Kansas is beginning to wake up and realize that things have changed,” Mast said. “Our economy is not as affluent. It’s time we open our eyes and realize we need to look for savings.”

Some Republicans on the committee opposed McLeland’s proposal because they wanted the study to be done by an outside party, not the regents, which oversees higher education.

McLeland’s amendment was close to dying on a 9-9 vote, but Appropriations Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, broke the tie to put the proposal in the budget bill. Under the amendment, the regents would have to report the results of the study to the 2012 Legislature.


Paul R Getto 7 years, 1 month ago

Here it comes, folks. If you liked the way the contractors screwed up things for the military, I'm sure they can do it for the universities too. Both parties have breathed the "let's sell government functions to our buddies" vapors. The alleged 'savings' have been hard to find, but 'gummint' is just 'biddness' right? Why not pipe the taxpayers' money directly to the trough? Muscular Jesus should have been a government contractor; it pays better than teacher.

Shardwurm 7 years, 1 month ago

Sorry...but since the Army went with private contractors on military bases the quality of living has gone up to standards not seen before. I can't speak to the cost/benefit portion...but contractors didn't 'screw up' the housing at Fort Leavenworth or Fort Riley.

Go take a look sometime if you doubt me.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 7 years, 1 month ago

"I can't speak to the cost/benefit portion." This depends upon the contractor. There are many with grandiose plans, which they'll purport to be wonderful but may not work reliably; certainly not without staff on site. Oversight is key and very expensive. Building in corrective measures are exceptionally expensive and contracts are difficult to legislate and adjudicate. Hiring more legal counsel and oversight committees guarantees more lawyers and administrative staff (at a high cost) but never means that actual work will be executed in a timely fashion. Monies lost to those not "on the ground" are monies lost to dreams, schemes and scheming. Look at the military. Basically, outsourcing ideas generally lead to loss, without real accountability, and there is currently not enough competition among contractors to make this worthwhile. Once contractors get their foot in the door, they put their foot on administrative throats. That's not something easily reversed but it's wasteful ways are often covered up. Go for it, administrators! Do remember that outsourcing has been proposed and tried over and over again, on a cyclical basis and it has never worked. The idea that administrators and lawyers can save more money than support staff has never proved to be true. Building complexity leads to loss. It could work. After all, pigs can fly with enough funding and we have plenty of that! The economies of localities will suffer, but that's not the least bit important. Kill a town. Promote a beast!

cowboy 7 years, 1 month ago

That might make sense if the pay scales were comparable to the private market. They are not ! KU's physical plant people are severely underpaid . Entry level qualifications require journeyman level experience and their paying 12-13 bucks an hour. The only reason that people stay there is because of the benefits. Take those away in privatization and you're going to have a revolving door staff. There is really no point in pursuing this in kansas.

Jeff Zamrzla 7 years, 1 month ago

Autie - don't forget the lack of accountability. We can hold public officials accountable, but not corporate officers.

Tony Kisner 7 years, 1 month ago

You fire them. That is accountability.

Panamint 7 years, 1 month ago

The damage is done by then. And then, no recourse. Most private companies working in public have no accountability for the management. You can fire the workers, but the profit to the company uppers remains.

estespark 7 years, 1 month ago

Maybe if Holiday Inn Express ran the dorms students would get better grades.

ebyrdstarr 7 years, 1 month ago

I'll admit it: that made me laugh so hard, I snorted.

Phillbert 7 years, 1 month ago

Advocates of privatization also never point out that the first chunk of any supposed savings goes toward the company's profit margin not the taxpayers.

Plus if you want to talk about privatizing dorms, just look at Naismith Hall. It advertises discounts all the time and is rarely if ever full (plus it isn't exactly a place to get any studying done.) And it isn't like the private market isn't already giving students thousands of options of places to live.

But since privatization worked SO well for the military maybe we can get Halliburton to run the dining halls (free gasoline contamination in every glass of water!) and Blackwater to handle campus security (your first two accidental shootings are free!)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"But since privatization worked SO well for the military maybe we can get Halliburton to run the dining halls (free gasoline contamination in every glass of water!) and Blackwater to handle campus security (your first two accidental shootings are free!)"

Excellent distillation of what "privatizing" really would look like.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

I wonder what the actual wording was. My guess that the regents would be instructed to construct a "study" that rubberstamps what these legislators already believe.

Jimo 7 years, 1 month ago

Where did the Republican Party whose slogan was once "Our best days are ahead of us" go?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

After which it will be renamed the University of Wealthy Kansans, and enrollment will drop from 26 thousand to around a thousand.

sk_in_ks 7 years, 1 month ago

Some of those top private universities are Harvard, Yale and Princeton, founded in 1636, 1701, and 1746 respectively -- and they've been building their endowments, the source of funding they use to stay in business, ever since. So no worries; if we privatize, we'll be where they are now in terms of private support within the next 350 years or so.

booyalab 7 years, 1 month ago

and you don't think the top ranked public university has any endowments?

That USA Today ranking system is irrelevant at best to quality of education. But there are plenty of other good reasons to privatize universities. Of course it's not going to happen overnight, so I'm down for privatizing select jobs.

SnakeFist 7 years, 1 month ago

You forgot to mention that many of the worst colleges are private, for-profit businesses that churn out worthless online degrees for "life-experience" and cheat both students, including many veterans, and the government.

Public schools aren't the top performers, but at least they're consistently good. Private school quality is all over the map. The idea that privatizing a service guarantees that it will improve is clearly false.

As to your other point: Society once thought the "pet rock" was useful, idolizes Paris Hilton, and thinks "Housewives of New Jersey" is great programming. I'm not impressed with society's priorities.

Betty Bartholomew 7 years, 1 month ago

Wouldn't privatizing housing endanger financial aid money that goes to the students specifically to cover their housing needs? Oh, right - less financial aid means more money saved. Silly me.

Shardwurm 7 years, 1 month ago

“Kansas is beginning to wake up and realize that things have changed,” Mast said. “Our economy is not as affluent. It’s time we open our eyes and realize we need to look for savings.”

Some of us were waking up 4 years ago. Wish the leadership at all levels would have seen what the rest of us saw.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

Yea, too bad they didn't do something to prevent the creation of the housing bubble, or keep it from bursting, or realize that starting two wars while giving massive tax cuts to the wealthy was a really stupid idea.

timetospeakup 7 years, 1 month ago

Right, the KS legislature started 2 wars.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

They certainly cheerleaded while their Republican brethren in Washington made all the moves that crashed the economy.

But they can't let a good crisis go to waste-- the chance to scapegoat state employees so that a few well-connected businessmen can pick up new state contracts is just too good to pass up.

Panamint 7 years, 1 month ago

Nothing has changed except that the "haves" have more the "have nots" to have less. That was the whole point of "what is wrong with Kansas". If we give up on being an affluent group, which we are, then we go down fast. The only ones the keep above water are the "haves", the "have nots" go lower.

sourpuss 7 years, 1 month ago

How about just raise taxes a little bit to cover some of this shortfall? Oh, right, you purposefully bankrupt and rob the government to create an excuse to sell off the people's assets to your friends and cut social services that keep society healthy and stable. Right.

kusp8 7 years, 1 month ago

I demand that JKealing immediately ban sourpuss for this ridiculous and incendiary remark....hahahaha....but seriously, sourpuss I couldn't agree more.

Adrienne Sanders 7 years, 1 month ago

“Kansas is beginning to wake up and realize that things have changed,” Mast said. “Our economy is not as affluent. It’s time we open our eyes and realize we need to look for savings.”

How about not wasting money on anymore stupid studies?

giveitsomethought 7 years, 1 month ago

perhaps they could have a study to see if that would be feasible :-J

George Brenner 7 years, 1 month ago

The Kansas legislature has already abandoned its responsbility to adequately fund higher education in this state. These cheapskates only have one thing in mind: more profits for the Kochs and their buddies. Wonder if they have a janitorial subsidiary?

Scruggsy 7 years, 1 month ago

Seems to me there are 2 common themes to everything coming out of Topeka lately:

How do we make more money for the big corporations under the guise of "budget shortfalls"? How can we give ourselves more power so that the people can't do anything about it?

I am not sure if I am more afraid or disgusted by it, but I am certainly both.

KindaBlue 7 years, 1 month ago

Didn't Fort Hays State University try something like this? They leased land on campus to a private company and that company built one of their dorms. And doesn't that company owe something like $150K in back taxes to the city of Hays for the dorm they built?

It would be different if the typical Resident Life Department didn't make money, but it is a money maker for most universities. When most of the staff are college students who get paid with a room (or maybe just a reduction in the room rate) and the rest are PROFESSIONALS with decades of experience, they should make money -- and they do.

But, sure go ahead and privatize everything and enjoy your $30K+ per year tuition at KU and KSU. I'm so certain that everyone will want to pay that and be in classes with 45 to 400 students in them. You do realize that classes in those top 25 universities are tiny because part of what you are paying for is access to professors.

parrothead8 7 years, 1 month ago

Send your children off to live in the housing managed by the lowest bidder...that will surely breed success.

ElGonzo 7 years, 1 month ago

Why not send the Universities to Mexico or China, we can save a lot......

SnakeFist 7 years, 1 month ago

Johnson County Community College is aleady moving toward privatization of its faculty: Well over 50% of all classes, and over 80% in some departments, are taught by private contractors, i.e., adjuncts. JCCC actually makes a profit on adjuncts, depending on the number of students enrolled in a class.

But consider this: Most adjuncts either have full-time jobs and are "dabbling" in teaching or want full-time jobs as teachers but can't get hired, they haven't had a raise in at least four years, they make a fraction of what full-timers make and receive no benefits, and increased class sizes have increased their workload. In that light, do you really think adjuncts are overly concerned about the quality of their instruction?

Not every private business competes on quality. For example, Pizza Hut is high cost and high quality while Little Caesar is low cost and low quality but no less successful. So what kind of privatized school will we have: A Pizza Hut or a Little Caesar?

Nathan Anderson 7 years, 1 month ago

Sir, I challenge your assertion that Pizza Hut is high quality.

giveitsomethought 7 years, 1 month ago

they used to be good many years ago.....Godfather's has them beat hands down

notanota 7 years, 1 month ago

You should have gone with Wheat State or Rudy's. Pizza hut = frozen dough pucks thawed in a pan of grease and topped with ingredients shipped in from a truck.

kuprof54 7 years, 1 month ago

If privatization means that we get rid of Do-Little and Bitter Vitter and hire real leaders who know how to run a business, then I'm all for it. We are forgetting that if we had the RIGHT leaders in place, they would be able to diagnose and intervene problems that arise. As it stands, they have a losing record.

Phillbert 7 years, 1 month ago

Hopefully the "right sizing" team will come visit you first so you can explain what exactly you do as a professor beyond post vengeful comments (sometimes during the middle of your "work" day.)

But if you want KU to be "run like a business" I'm sure you'd find support in the Legislature for ending tenure.

kuprof54 7 years, 1 month ago

I absolutely would support ending tenure. I think its an option to consider. I also think that professors and teachers should go through the same annual 360 reviews that every other employee in this nation goes through. The problem is not tenure, it is the structure in which we evaluate our professors and teachers. I would love for Vitter and GBL to have an annual 360 review with no multi-year contract.

And Phillbert, trust me, I have given back to KU in bigger ways than you ever have. If only you knew what I've accomplished this year....

DanR 7 years, 1 month ago

Please, kuprof54, tell us what you've accomplished this year. Golly, it's only February. You must be SO important and worthy.

Really, please tell us what you've accomplished, so we know you're not just some online gas bag.

kuprof54 7 years, 1 month ago

No, I'm not one of your typical entitled professors who is an academic, high and mighty elite. Trust me, I'm not your typical professor. And the ways in which I've helped KU aren't what you would first go to as what a typical prof would contribute. And my contributions are large enough that you have heard about them. Multiple times. I'll leave it at that.

DanR 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm sure I'd probably appreciate your mysterious contributions to KU and humanity in general. Thank you for whatever it is you do!

parrothead8 7 years, 1 month ago

"...who know how to run a business..."

And herein lies the problem: people who think education can be effectively run as a business. No matter how hard you try, you cannot quantify knowledge.

Fugu 7 years, 1 month ago

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe many aspects of KU are already private. KU Housing, KU Dining, the unions, and the union bookstores are all contracted out.

question4u 7 years, 1 month ago

Let's follow Lawrenceguy40 's advice. Here are the universities that he mentions and their annual tuition and fees.

Harvard $38,416 Princeton $36,640 Yale $38,300 Columbia $43,304 Stanford $39,201 Penn $40,514 Cal Tech $36,282 MIT $39,212 Dartmouth $40,437 Duke $40,472 Chicago $41,091 Northwestern $40, 247 Johns Hopkins $40,680 Washington Universiy $40,374 Brown University $40,820 Cornell Universty $39,666 Rice University $33,771 Vanderbilt $39,932 Notre Dame $39,919 Emory $39,158 Georgetown $40,203

Rice looks like a bargain at $135,084 for a bachelor's degree (not including, room and board costs, of course). Surely every Kansan can afford to pay $135,084 to get a degree from the "newly privatized and newly efficient KU."

The "new KU" would be less expensive than the top 21 private universities in the country though. It probably wouldn't be much more expensive than some of the privates in Kansas already. For example:

Baker University $22,280
Bethany College $20,026 Friends University $20,040

Friends University in Wichita is cheap at only $80,104 for a bachelor's degree. Sure KU, a large research university would be more expensive, but every Kansan can afford more than $80,104 plus room and board costs.

The current cost of a KU bachelors degree is $8,732 a year, for a total of $34,924. Lawrenceguy40 is surely correct that the number of college educated Kansas won't drop at all if KU's tuition goes up by more than $11,294 a year for a total increase of $45,176. No one will cross the borders to pay far less in out-of-state tuition in Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado or Oklahoma. And even if they do, they will definitely come back when they have their degrees. There won't be any shortages of doctors, dentists, engineers and scientists in Kansas. Businesses will definitely want to move to a state with the lowest number of college graduates in the country. It will mean prosperity for all.

What a great plan.

portstorm 7 years, 1 month ago

There someone goes again... using data to answer a question that is far better approached with guttural opinion 8)

Seriously. Gold star question4u. That is exactly the point. While private doesn't always mean high cost nor high quality "Top Rated" always means only the absolute super wealthy have access (or the very small percentage that get a large enough scholarship to bring costs in line with what a typical family could pay off in a lifetime). Add room, board, food and other expenses and you're easily talking $225-250k for a bachelors degree.

How many jobs, in Kansas, pay enough money to pay those loans off? Add to that the fact that there is talk of having interest on students loans start at origination (and not after graduation as in the past) and you'd have a huge hump of interest to deal with on top of the loan.

I'm neither blanket for or against privatization (it has it's place like all things). But I can say that if a bunch of students yell at KU Housing or at the Rec Center folks, they really do try to adjust things (if it wouldn't cost 6 figures that they don't have). Try yelling at the Marriott Corporation or any of the myriad examples in campus outsourcing and see what the outcome is. It's ALWAYS "you want anything more that what you get it will cost you... and that is IF we decide to". One thing you get in Public vs Private is you can at least get transparency (eventually) with records requests and public hearings. No company will subject themselves to that without a summons to appear before congress or a judge.

I am in no way saying things couldn't be more efficient in almost every bureaucracy in the state. But seriously, KU's internal costs for a plumber/electrician/etc are less than HALF what a licensed plumber in town costs per hour. It's the only way KU has dealt with an almost total lack of state provided maintenance funds for decades. In other words, there is no "profit" on top of their labor/headcount costs that goes to the shareholders. That and KU constantly outsources things that make sense (roofs, renovations, etc). They have BOTH options and look at the costs of both and then decide "can we do it internally and is it cheaper if we do".

That and honest to god, KU's facilities people work very very hard (see how fast snow gets shoveled on campus vs a corporate housing complex).

Jock Navels 7 years, 1 month ago

while we are at it, let's privatize the legal and judicial systems much would that save the wait...privatize the private tize the pirate piratize the priv...

notanota 7 years, 1 month ago

Aren't they already a subsidiary of Koch Industries?

Gregory Newman 7 years, 1 month ago

The problem isn't the school it's the State. The State hasn't brought in the fortune 500 companies so the best KU educated leave the State. Like to LA, Dallas and Chicago. Cities like Topeka and Kansas City is pitiful. 2 cities that are too big to be a town but not big enough to be a city. The Governors don't market the State to bring in industry. I left in 1971 to California and I've seen no growth. But the most talented folks that live in Cali are from Kansas. It might not be a bad idea but make sure they are employed in the state not another.

coderob 7 years, 1 month ago

Watch the state sell the dorms off and then watch the university need them back in a few years for whatever reason. Then they'll be sorry.

It all reminds me of the Chicago parking meter deal, where the parking meters got leased off to a private company for 80 years. A classic way to get people using mass transit is to increase parking fees and divert the money to transit. The city can't do that anymore, and the money that the city has gotten so far from the deal has been spent by legislators already. Plus, by the time Chicago gets to 2060, the congestion will be so bad that it will probably have to eliminate on street parking in the center of down. But it can't do that since the parking spaces there are leased out.

I don't know how the state's going to screw this one up, but privatization is not a panacea and is actually a dangerous decision to make, especially if you're only doing it out of anti-big government sentiment.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 1 month ago

The costs that are mentioned above are not including room and board. I think Harvard would be more in the $60-70K annual range as well as Stanford and MIT.

independant1 7 years, 1 month ago

Privitization of many functions ....? It's about time where it makes sense.

As for the ranking of Universities and tuition, the calculus isn't any different at Colby Jr College than it is at Harvard. The difference is academic snobism and NE elitism. We have some of that right here in KS in River City at snob hill.

A degree from any college or university does not bestow intelligence upon anyone, it's just a piece of paper.

whartman 7 years, 1 month ago

Rep. McLeland, I would respectully submit that the Association of Phy. Plant Admin has done a great deal of research on this issue via indepent means.

After about 40 years of being associated with this issue may I share?

This is not new to Kansas or the Regents. KU privatized custodial once and it failed

What will you find in the APPA research and our Kansas historical record is: 1. It will be a given that a private contractor will not bid unless he can cut costs.
2. Contractors will come in and the first year they will be great to the existing employess to learn the lay of things
3. State employees will lose their KAPERS and other benefits
4. In a year or two after coming the contractor will look to make a 5 to 8% gain on profits cutting services and employees 5. If anyone wants to read further from the tons of research done by APPA on this topic they will find that contractors will last at an intitution for about 5 to 8 years

All the while they genernally have: 1. Applied for NO grants to assist the institution 2. Made little or no efort to improve the energy efficency of the agency a. As a matter of fact the ESCO's who serviced the State of Kansas some years back as private contractors were a failure 3. They generally will repair major items like central industrial chillers, boilers and the like as an ADD to their contract 4. Many regents instutions have OUTSTANDING journeyman. Some even have MASTER'S LICENCES yet they work for the State out of loyalty and many times for the health insurance and retirement. Yet they make ONLY $18 an hour while those in the private world make @$40 or MORE. Do you think any of them will be here if one removes the only reason that they work for the State (ie: benefits) 5. Sir, have you ever heard the term"IN LOCO PARENTIS? It applies to the University's responsibilty to serve as a "parent". Would a contrtactor care? 6. Sir, please help me find a successful example of your suggestion to privatize. 7. Some regents schools are the most energy efficient in the Midwest. Would a private contractor work hard to secure grants for such an effort? No. Can you point to where a contractor on any campus has worked towards being among the most energy efficient of their peers at NO EXTRA CHARGE?
8. Some regents schools have PERFECT POWER FACTORS. I would respectfully ask if you know what this means and it s wonderful impact on an institution. Some R. schools qualify for this and it was done by loyal state workers a. Has any private contractor done this without a huge charge? This points to privatization being a failure to my way of thinking.


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