Archive for Monday, January 17, 2011

Kansas Board of Regents pleased with Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget proposals

January 17, 2011


— While their counterparts in the public school system have found plenty to complain about in Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback's budget proposals, officials in the higher education system are feeling relatively lucky.

Leaders of the Kansas Board of Regents say higher education did not take as big a hit as it might have in a year in which the state has to close a $550 million budget shortfall.

"After recent and severe budget cuts, and a continued trend of state disinvestment in higher education, we're very pleased the governor is advocating for no reductions to the system's base budget," said Regents Chairman Gary Sherrer.

In his budget proposal, the Republican Brownback is not calling for cuts in university operating budgets and wants more state investment in key research missions.

By contrast, public schools would see significant cuts in their general operating budgets. Brownback's budget would cut the base aid the state's 293 school districts receive by $232 per student, a reduction caused by the end of federal stimulus funds used to prop up education budgets.

The K-12 cut also reflects the higher costs to the state for support of the teacher pension program and aid to a number of districts making bond payments on new facility construction.

Sherrer and other university leaders welcomed the news and said they were eager to work with Brownback and the new Legislature to build on the proposal and other academic goals. Kansas has 32 public higher education institutions, including seven four-year universities and 19 community colleges.

Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said Brownback's proposal was "the first step" in the process and that the university would work with the governor and legislators on the proposed investments.

"And while it is an encouraging step, we cannot make assumptions about funding until the budget is passed and signed into law," she said. "Stabilizing funding for higher education would certainly aid our efforts to meet the state's needs for an educated workforce and for research that creates jobs."

Brownback's proposal calls for $105 million in research investments. The state would contribute half of the amount in general fund revenues, while the universities would be required to reprogram existing dollars or raise an equal amount from private sources.

Kansas is trying to secure two major research projects.

Working with the Department of Homeland Security, Kansas State University is involved with the design and construction of the new National Bio- and AgroDefense Facility, which would replace an aging federal animal research facility at Plum Island, N.Y. The $451 million lab will be built near the Kansas State campus in Manhattan and conduct research on deadly plant and animal contagions, including foot-and-mouth disease.

"We appreciate that Gov. Brownback recognizes the role higher education plays in economic development and job growth in Kansas and how it speeds the state's economic recovery," said Kansas State President Kirk Schultz.

The University of Kansas is seeking to gain National Cancer Center designation for medical school operations in Kansas City, while Wichita State University is continuing on the success of its aviation research center linked to the cluster of aircraft and aerospace industries in south-central Kansas.

Brownback also proposes reorganizing all of state government and moving some Kansas economic development functions currently embedded in other state agencies to universities. It includes abolishing the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation, which helps high-tech firms get off the ground, and move the functions and research grants under the regents.

Bills to accomplish some of the governor's spending and policy initiatives were introduced last week when the Legislature convened. Hearings on those measures are expected to begin in the coming weeks.


JustNoticed 7 years, 4 months ago

But. But ... I thought he was a spawn of the devil.

straightforward 7 years, 4 months ago

Obviously this is an example of right-wing media bias...

Hwy50 7 years, 4 months ago

I find it sad that they're pleased with this. "Take it from them, not us!" Will they still be pleased with this when kids coming out of K-12 heading their way are not as well educated?

Terry Schmidt 7 years, 4 months ago

We need to keep in mind the Governor has never been a real proponent of K-12 public ed - where do you think his own children were educated? Shocked to know it was in the paroachial system? Go figure.

Also, the Board of Regents are paying very big dollars for their Executive to glad hand, smile, and make the incoming Administration feel important.

Pathetic State of Affairs for Kansas and a continued pathetic show of leadership from the Regent's office.

thatonedude 7 years, 4 months ago

While I will dump on Gov. Brownback at any opportunity, and think it is laughable the way he ignores K-12, I will just mention that I went to a public high school with his children.

KU_cynic 7 years, 4 months ago

First, full disclosure: I am a KU professor.

My impressions when I came to Kansas over a decade ago were that state university tuition rates were too low, K-12 education was relatively underfunded, and that state universities were overfunded (and should rely more on tuition). A decade later, tuition rates have risen, but I still feel that Kansas priorities are skewed in a way that harms the base as represented in K-12.

Because of the relatively smaller size of the higher education budget relative to the larger K-12 budget, robbing Peter to rob Paul less aggressively isn't a solution to the budget woes. However, shared sacrifice would seem to a more equitable way to deal with the reality of revenue slowdowns and a legislature unwilling to raise taxes, especially since major restructuring (elimination of redundant programs, pruning of low-impact and low-quality programs, etc.) has thus far been avoided at state universities.

That's why higher ed leaders are mum-to-pleased with the governor's budget; for another year they can put off tough decisions. As a self-interested KU employee, I'll still be among the first to say that's not fair.

Miles Nease 7 years, 4 months ago

The real problem is that a state with only 2.8 million residents supports 32 higher education institutions, including seven four-year colleges. Rural, K-12 school districts are having to close and/or merge schools because of declining enrollments and costs. The Regents need to do the same with the universities and community colleges. Are seven universities really necessary? The number of community colleges surely can be reduced, as well. BTW, the article stated that there are 19 community colleges and seven four-year colleges. What are the other six institutions, vo- techs?

handley 7 years, 4 months ago

I just read in the paper that we need to boost our education to keep up with China, this does not sound like a boost to me.

mdd660 7 years, 4 months ago

Funding the teachers pension fund takes priority over trying to keep up with China's education system.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.