Editorial: Wrong direction

While other states are investing in higher education, state lawmakers are making budget cuts that will make Kansas schools less competitive.

July 18, 2013


Sometimes, you don’t want to stand out.

Unfortunately, that’s the case with the Sunflower State these days. We’re one of five states that has reduced state funding to public universities, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Contrarian actions sometimes can represent a valuable strategic gamble. Usually, however, they’re a terrible misjudgment, and that’s probably the situation for our state universities.

The average increase in education funding for the states in the survey (data from three were unavailable or changing) was 3.6 percent. In Kansas, however, the Legislature found it possible to put in place reductions of about 3 percent annually for the next two years.

So it’s a tough road ahead for Kansas University and its sister institutions as they try to maintain programs and retain valued faculty members. Their competitors are getting a fresh infusion of dollars from legislators elsewhere who realize that education can drive their states’ economic well-being.

Former Kansas lawmaker Kenny Wilk, now vice chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, appeared to lament the Legislature’s action. “It’s not just about the universities. It’s about the overall health and well-being of our state and growing our economy,” he said. “I think it’s a great investment.”

Kansas, however, is hewing to the conservative Republican agenda that everything from the Kansas Turnpike to universities, from K-12 education to health spending, must be cut in order to finance the grand experiment of eliminating the state income tax. Supposedly that change will spur overwhelming economic growth and supercharge the state’s economy. The streets will be paved with gold!

But the unkindest cut of all for the universities may be the sentiment expressed by House Speaker Ray Merrick. Giving lip service to the importance of higher education to the Kansas economy, he added that the institutions should be held accountable for their spending and specifically complained about recent tuition increases. Regents noted that state funding for the universities now is at a lower level than in 2001; students and their parents are taking up the slack.

In all this mess, it’s unfortunate that there’s no dynamic individual to speak up for the value of higher education and challenge the small-minded thinkers who seem to have grabbed the microphone.

Until that happens, Kansas will continue to stand out. Like a sore thumb.


David Holroyd 1 year, 5 months ago

Oh baloney! Something has to be cut! How in the world did people get educated before?

tomatogrower 1 year, 5 months ago

In the past good citizens paid their taxes and the state funded the schools. If they hadn't cut taxes, then there wouldn't have been a problem. Now we have a bunch of people who do not want to pay taxes, but they still want good schools and good highways. I guess they believe in the magic elves who come out and fix everything for them. Brownback is sure the rapture is going to happen anyway now, so he could care less.

nominalize 1 year, 5 months ago

"Something has to be cut!" No, it doesn't. There are two ways to balance your budget--- cut spending, or get a raise and pony up the scratch. Conservatives never mention the second option, because they want to pretend it doesn't exist, because "taxes = bad", or some other empty juvenile catchphrase. But it does.

tomatogrower 1 year, 5 months ago

Also they have the nerve to tell people to go out and get 2nd and 3rd jobs to make a living, so they don't have to pay a living wage. And they wonder why their employees don't show more enthusiasm and don't work harder.

verity 1 year, 5 months ago

I always wonder how the "family values" folks think parenting is going to be improved by not having parents at home.

verity 1 year, 5 months ago

More people lose their jobs, more money spent on unemployment and other social services. People not spending as much on goods and services. People not able to find other jobs or taking jobs that don't pay their bills. Social services cut, which will almost assuredly result in the rise of crime. Although the radical right destructionists claims it is, this doesn't seem to be a recipe for improving the economy.

Yes, there is waste that could be cut out, but taking a chainsaw to weeds doesn't usually work real well.

Michael LoBurgio 1 year, 5 months ago

Governor #Brownback aggressively lobbied for the #ksleg budget that cut Kansas higher education next year, making Kansas one of only five states in the nation to do so in FY 2014. This funding cut was directly passed to the student in the form of higher tuition. In some cases, tuition is going up next year as much as 8%. This is all happening to pay for Governor Brownback's income tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations.

verity 1 year, 5 months ago

Name some examples please, especially those that are a hindrance to the actual teaching.

elliottaw 1 year, 5 months ago

KU has less than 1% of the faculty being minorities, I would say they need a diversity dean more than anything else.

jayhawklawrence 1 year, 5 months ago

I think when you study the pay scale of these state "bureacracies" they start to make an argument towards the need for a living wage.

When you analyze what the politicians are focused on, it rarely helps the sinking middle class.

jayhawklawrence 1 year, 5 months ago

I think when you study the pay scale of these state "bureacracies" they start to make an argument towards the need for a living wage.

When you analyze what the politicians are focused on, it rarely helps the sinking middle class, however, affordability of education is probably the most important bridge we have left to achieving a higher quality of life.

Brownback has done more to attack education then anyone in Kansas history.

nominalize 1 year, 5 months ago

I think that Brownback's attempt to be more Texas than Texas is doomed to fail. You can't beat Texas at their own game. Because what does Kansas offer that Texas doesn't? Texas has no income tax at all... but even if Kansas doesn't, who would bring their business here instead of there? Texas has six times the population (i.e. a far larger local market and employee pool), two major airports, a world-class port, four of the largest metros in the US, even a liberal tech hub in Austin (which is Texas's 8th largest city, yet twice as large as Wichita). It has 8 major league sports teams to buy corporate suites at, to Kansas's none. It has a large influx of migrants from South and North, and a ton of tourists as well. The free market speaks clearly, and it speaks for Texas.

Oh, and even during the big recession, Texas invested heavily in its state universities to raise more of them to R-1 status. That investment is going to pay them dividends for years to come.

tomatogrower 1 year, 5 months ago

And you left out the oil. They have a lot of oil. Oil equals lots of money.

verity 1 year, 5 months ago

Doesn't Texas also have a significant amount of income from oil? It also has world class medical centers in both Dallas and Houston.

However, I think the "we want to be like Texas" thing is a red herring. Just an excuse for dismantling everything that we've built up in Kansas and and making it into a feudal estate for the Kochs.

I keep asking this question and never get an answer. What has Brownback done during his term as governor that is positive? Something? Anything?

jafs 1 year, 5 months ago

What exactly was wrong in KS with previous administrations?

I've lived here for about 20 years now, and things seemed to be working pretty well, as far as I can tell.

verity 1 year, 5 months ago

You didn't give me any examples of changes that are positive.

And I'm with jafs. I was born in Kansas and have lived here approximately half of my life. Things seemed to me to be going pretty well, certainly we weren't failing.

kochmoney 1 year, 5 months ago

Getting us nowhere except for schools that ranked well nationally and relatively low unemployment. Clearly, something different must be done!

1029 1 year, 5 months ago

You are way off on your population stats for Texas.

1) Austin is the 4th largest city, not the 8th. (Top ten in order: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, El Paso, Arlington, Corpus Christi, Plano, and Laredo)

2) Texas has way more than "six times the population" of Kansas. According to the 2010 Census, Texas has a population of 25,145,561 compared to 2,853,118 for Kansas.

positive 1 year, 5 months ago

A practical solution to this problem for KU is to raise tuition and keep the best faculty. There is no need to get into a fight with the legislature. The state funding is low by any historical standard with no hope for increase. If KU waits for state funding, it will be too late. Building a great university from scratch is more difficult than trying to maintain a great university. I guess I will have to pay more for my kids to go to KU, but that is better than paying much more for a similar quality private school or paying even more for a worse out of state school (like MU).

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 5 months ago

This is just another fight from the facist republicans elected by the ignorant Kansas votrers who are buying the Koch line. They rail against the non-citizen black president and continue to cut themsleves in the throat to oppose anything that smacks of the federal government.

This is what you get with the Koch brand republicans.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Beware Detroit filed for bankruptcy. Michigan is among the states that ALEC influences. ALEC believes in defunding communities to the point of no return as much as possible.

Then the ALEC concept steps in thus meaning private industry takes over everything possible getting paid with OUR tax dollars. Which means OUR tax dollars will go to special interest political financing of right wing politicians posing as republicans.

ALEC/Americans for Prosperity loves our tax dollars. In order to support privatization OUR taxes will increase to support the lifestyle of corporate America.

Kansas Club for Growth,ALEC/Americans for Prosperity,Brownback and Wal-Mart family do not want a lot of people to become educated. It has been part of the dumb down concept for about 33 years. These thinkers do love OUR tax dollars in spite of their lying.

Beware another 4 years of Kansas Club for Growth,ALEC/Americans for Prosperity,Brownback and Wal-Mart family thinkers will place our public education system in their bank accounts.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 months ago

Michigan governor and Brownback have a lot in common...... laugh all you want. ALEC infection is nationwide. Then again the Ohio and Wisconsin governors also have a lot in common with Brownback. Then we go to Florida. How can we forget Texas?

Brownback is Koch and ALEC.

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