Archive for Saturday, August 18, 2012

Schools must ramp up efforts to justify funding

August 18, 2012

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Following the recent Kansas primary elections, there has been much talk about the possible repercussions of conservative Republican candidates ousting more moderate-leaning officeholders. These elections have given political observers much to debate or speculate on relative to what will happen with various state-assisted programs if these victorious GOP conservatives defeat their Democratic opponents and the Kansas Senate becomes a far more conservative body.

Those in the field of education seem particularly concerned and suggest there may be severe cutbacks in state fiscal aid to K-12 schools and to the state-aided universities.

Some of those in this camp are forecasting dark days for schools a year or two from now when, in their eyes, a legislative body created by Gov. Sam Brownback, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the “Koch Brothers” and other ultra-conservative individuals and groups have waved their magic wands and created a new tight-fisted, shortsighted, uninformed and uneducated legislative body that is likely to take actions that severely damage the state’s schools.

At this time, who knows what is going to happen to funding for education, but one thing is sure: Those in education, whether they are classroom teachers in K-12 schools, parents of students or faculty and administrators at the college level, all are going to have to do a far better job of telling their story and justifying sound fiscal support for their schools.

Too many people engaged and interested in education seem to think generous financial support for education is a given, almost automatic, and that those who question the effective use of millions of tax dollars appropriated for education are themselves uneducated and don’t know the importance of excellence in all levels of schooling.

The fact is, too many in education, including teachers, school superintendents and those associated with colleges and universities have done a poor and ineffective job of telling their story, explaining their needs and getting the public sufficiently excited and enthused about demanding proper fiscal support by state lawmakers.

One such body, which has failed to be a strong, positive and effective messenger for higher education, is the Kansas Board of Regents. In recent years, the regents have not measured up to their responsibilities.

The past few days, the nine members of this extremely important body have been engaged in a retreat to analyze the status of higher education in Kansas, its needs, how to generate more fiscal support from the state and other topics that probably come before the regents year after year.

With colleges and universities facing the possibility of very modest, if any, fiscal increases, now would seem to be the time for regents to make a much greater commitment to telling their story of why the schools under their jurisdiction need and deserve far better funding.

With Kansas University leaders and the regents intent on making KU a special school with different admission standards and different research goals, they will have to do an even better job of convincing legislators and taxpayers that KU deserves and needs more money than the other regents universities on a per-student basis.

Regents should get tough in demanding they get superior work, not just average performances, from their chancellor and presidents.

As this writer has noted in previous columns, there is no way the nine-member Board of Regents can do an adequate job of monitoring the 32 state institutions they oversee and coordinate.

The governor or lawmakers should study whether to expand the number of regents and create a separate “eyes and ears” body for each school that would help keep the regents informed about what is going on at the campuses. Recent activities on Mount Oread offer excellent proof that regents have either been blind, in the dark or didn’t act on troubling problems.

If KU is to be a special institution, with special goals, should KU have its own board of regents or should KU, Kansas State and maybe even Wichita State have one board while the other universities are guided by another body?

Has the time come for someone with first-hand experience as a university faculty member to be a regent? Do any current regents really know what goes on at a university campus and do they understand and realize chancellors and president can, and frequently do, hoodwink regents?

Do regents listen to the concerns of faculty members and do they realize the greatly reduced, almost neutered, role of faculty in university guidance? Faculty used to play a significant role in the affairs of a university. No longer!

It is hoped those at this week’s regents retreat gave serious, very serious, thought to how they can impose more demanding standards or expectations in all areas of performance on the campuses under their jurisdiction — how they can improve the excellence of their schools, even though substantially increased funding may be difficult to obtain.

It is natural for those living in university communities to be sensitive to the needs of their schools, but adequate funding for all levels of education should be a high priority for all Kansans, no matter where they live.

However, those in education should be far more committed themselves in working for proper funding, rather than sitting on the sidelines, asking others to do the heavy lifting.

Comments

foggydew 2 years, 11 months ago

Poor, poor Dolph. No matter how much he rants and raves, nobody will appoint him to te Board of Regents.

Phillbert 2 years, 11 months ago

Funny that public education, which most people see as both a moral obligation and something that is a cornerstone of the economy, has to come up with more and more justifications for its importance. Yet tax cuts for rich people can get passed overwhelmingly based simply upon "Art Laffer said so."

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 11 months ago

When costs for education are out pacing costs for healthcare by some 400%. When are the taxpayers going to cry FOUL!

It appears that higher education is the worst, entrenched, good ole boys network we have today. There appears not to be a guard, guarding the guard and the taxpayers just keep taking it deeper in the poop shoot, while children of taxpaying Kansans are not accepted, but illegals are. There are huge reasons that higher education should be placed in the public domain and made to compete for its services. This in turn would provide better education at a lower cost and hopefully provide more money for either tax relief for the states citizens or services for those who really need it.

Phillbert 2 years, 11 months ago

You clearly have never looked at the cost of tuition at for-profit colleges. These "free market" institutions have some of the highest costs and lowest graduation rates in the nation.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 11 months ago

Other than cost can they compete with Haskell? Clearly, you do not seem to convey you understand supply and demand. It simply establishes the costs based on its product or service. The items on the shelf are like the teachers, the stuff worth having stays on the shelf for sale. There is nothing wrong with this as the cost of education will go way down, the quality of educators will go way up, and those who are slacking, hiding behind tenure would be required to preform, or seek a different career. How can anyone see what is wrong with that?

The way it is now, the government takes from you and determines what to spend your money on. You live and pay taxes into the state, the state in turn can say your child does not qualify for the higher education you have been paying your taxes for. If there was say, a tax credit, voucher if you will, for higher education, higher education was in the private sector and had to compete for students and its survival, everyone is a winner, except the educators who are hiding behind tenure, watching the clock waiting for their bloated retirements at the taxpayers expense.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 11 months ago

Voveda or what ever your handle is:

You are wrong on all accounts. College professors only have to acquire tenure, get locked into the system and coast. There are exceptions, but very few.

No need to chat with you, your reasoning is why the system is broke.

Phillbert 2 years, 11 months ago

Again, you are completely ignoring the reality of for-profit education, where the CEOs and shareholders make millions. Meanwhile the students get taken in by flashy ads, and very often direct lies by recruiters, only to end up with mountains of debt and no degrees.

But it is interesting that you advocate access to education regardless of qualifications. Sounds a little socialist.

voevoda 2 years, 11 months ago

University admission isn't a right, open to everyone who pays taxes, cant_have_it. Entry is by merit, just as it is to varsity sports teams. For those Kansans who don't merit admission, there is the alternative of community colleges--also public institutions--where they can prove their academic quality and then transfer to universities.
It's not professors' salaries that are driving up the cost of education, cant_have_it. Professors' salaries have stagnated and even declined, compared with private sector employees with similar education and competencies. Contrary to the stereotype, most professors work 55+ hours per week and provide their students with a good education, while contributing to the expansion of knowledge in their fields. Slackers are few, and eliminating them (not a bad idea, if it is done through proper process) would have neglible effect on the bottom line. What has caused the rise in tuition costs? First, the costs of technology: computers, software, campus-round wiring, lab equipment, medical technology, and all the staff to maintain them. Second, the costs of university administrators, needed to respond to the demands for accountability. Third, the sharp decline in state support for education, shifting the burden onto the students themselves and their families. Public universities are already in the "public domain," cant_have_it. They already compete for available students, even while being selective about whom they admit. The problem isn't the universities; it's the students, who often make poor choices. They choose the wrong schools for the wrong reasons. They squander their own money, their families' money, and the taxpayers' money by blowing off their school work in order to party. They prioritize the dead-end jobs they hold to pay for cars, vacations, and other nice extras over their schoolwork.
Why wouldn't a voucher system work for universities? First, because it would involve private citizens (taxpayers) supporting institutions that are not obliged to conform to any standards of education and are not answerable to the taxpayers' representatives. Second, because it would involve giving money to students who are not qualified to undertake post-high school education, thus encouraging them to waste our money and their own time. Third, it would promote the spread of for-profit universities which usually provide an inferior education at an inflated price.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 11 months ago

You are wrong on all accounts. People who actually believe what you say are either those with the silver education spoon in their mouths, or those who have never actually had to preform in the private sector to maintain employment.

You may be onto something about the administrators. They, as a group are a bunch of bureaucrats that are in it for themselves and those like them. They politic and rub shoulders with the givers of tax dollars, to keep their jobs and to protect those in their click. If the universities had to compete, the whole lot of them would get better as competence would be demanded of them to keep their jobs. As it is now, just last 10 years, get your tenure and you can't be fired. Here in lies the problem. Add unions and the governmental structure, you see start to see why there are problems. In most cases, the professors that survive are the "Egg suckers" and yes types. They, when promoted with in the system are just patsies for someone in the administration.

voevoda 2 years, 11 months ago

You are presuming, cant_have_it, that most professors deserve to be fired. And that's just not true. And you're wrong that universities don't have to compete--they compete for students; they compete for faculty; they compete for grants; they compete for contract work. Some universities go under--just like some businesses. Most don't, because they do a good job.

Mike Ford 2 years, 11 months ago

by starving you, we will do better.....the american way....the christian american way.... who is taught to share as a child anyway????

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 11 months ago

We should consolidate school districts with a guarantee that evey school that is now open will remain open for 10 years. We should have only one district per county which would get us down to 105 in the state. We probably have 500 in KS right now. The cost savings from eliminating about 400 superintendents alone would be something like $60 million (400 x $150k). We could also eliminate duplicate payroll and purchasing systems. That $60 million could then be spent in the classroom rather than on administration.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 11 months ago

Another thought would be to restructure higher education in Kansas.

Why not create a university of Kansas System that would be comprised of multiple campuses in Lawrence, Overland Park (Edwards), KCK (KU med center), Wichita (Wichita State) and Topeka (Washburn)

Why not create a Kansas State University System comprised of campuses in Manhattan, Emporia (ESU), Hays (FHSU) and Pittsburg (PSU)?

In this way, we only need two chancellors/presidents, not 6. That would save at least $1 million right there. You also could eliminate duplicate payroll and purchasing departments.

In other words, keep academic degree programs untouched, but reduce the bureaucracy.

Maybe we have a third system of higher education for all the state funded junior colleges and technical schools.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 11 months ago

I'm envisioning the Texas model here. They have a UT Austin, UT Arlington, UT El Paso, etc.

Texas ATM has the same set up.

Patricia Davis 2 years, 11 months ago

Why leave academic degree programs untouched? There is too much duplication. Why not have one truly great engineering school? One truly great fine arts school? Enrollment is declining at universities. Consolidate programs, keep the best, jet the rest.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 11 months ago

WSU currently focuses on aerospace engineering. KSU focuses on transportation engineering. KU focuses on environmental and water resources engineering. Though I think you can get degrees in several different engineering disciplines at each of these.

Some duplication is good...what with market forces and all. I would have thought you would have known that...

John Hamm 2 years, 11 months ago

"waved their magic wands and created a new tight-fisted, shortsighted, uninformed and uneducated legislative body that is likely to take actions that severely damage the state’s schools." Ooooooooooooooooo Liberal-Speak for, "Oh my gosh! We might start having to live within a budget!" About time!

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