Posts tagged with Education

Kansas colleges request budget hike of nearly $19 million

The Kansas Board of Regents next week will consider a general 2.6 percent increase in higher education funding, plus a number of targeted increases including funds for Kansas University for a new medical school building and the hiring of “foundation professors.”

The board is scheduled to discuss the postsecondary budget proposal on Wednesday and take action on it Thursday.

The recommended budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2012, will then be forwarded to Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget office for consideration. Brownback and the Legislature will work on a state spending plan when the legislative session starts in January.

The proposal before the regents would increase general higher education spending by 2.6 percent or $18.9 million.

This would cover inflation that is specific to higher education, which includes such things as professional and non-professional salaries, contracted services, and utility costs, according to a regents memo.

In addition, the plan also calls for a $2.2 million increase in need-based student financial assistance programs, which would return that assistance to 2009 levels.

The proposal also includes a $38.4 million increase requested for specific institutions or programs; $20 million of that would be to increase funding for technical education.

Brownback has said he wants to see the state place a greater emphasis on technical education in high schools and colleges.

Speaking to the regents last month at a retreat, Brownback said, “Too many companies are saying that your workforce is not really trained for our needs.”

KU’s request totals $9.9 million and includes a $5 million annual appropriation help build a new medical education building at the School of Medicine in Kansas City, Kan.

Brownback has also spoken of the need to increase the ranking of the KU medical school.

The proposed building would cost approximately $78 million and allow KU to increase its medical school by 50 students. The current facility, which opened in 1976, is “severely outdated,” the regents memo states, because it was designed for lectures instead of the modern curriculum, which emphasizes small groups.

The $5 million annual appropriation would cover debt to retire bonds on the project.

KU also is asking for a $3 million annual appropriation to hire “foundation professors” who would have international status and play a major role in research efforts and maintaining KU’s membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities.

And KU is requesting $1.9 million for additional funding for its medical loan program, which provides tuition, fees and a monthly stipend for medical students. The loans can be repaid by practicing in an under-served county in Kansas.

By Scott Rothschild

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Committee recommends confirmation of three new members to Kansas Board of Regents

A Senate committee on Thursday unanimously recommended confirmation of three new members of the Kansas Board of Regents.

Fred Logan Jr. of Leawood, Robba Addison Moran of Hays and Kenny Wilk of Lansing were all nominated by Gov. Sam Brownback.

“It’s such an important job,” state Sen. Jean Kurtis Schodorf, R-Wichita, said of the regents, who oversee and coordinate the state’s higher education system.

Full confirmation is essentially a formality when the legislative session starts in January, and the three have already been at work, participating last month in a three-day board retreat.

Logan told the Senate Confirmation Oversight Committee that his nomination has “turned my calendar upside down,” but that he was more than glad to do it to work to improve higher education in Kansas.

Moran, who has taught in primary and secondary schools, said she believed the regents needed to focus on “efficiency, excellence and economic development.”

Schodorf, who is chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said that because of budget cuts during the recession “the regents institutions have been through a lot.”

She added, “They have cut programs, they have economized, they have put programs together. I hope everybody will realize how much they have done.”

By Scott Rothschild

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Capsules rewind time to 9/11

Of course there were newspapers.

With big, bold, black headlines, they alone filled one of two time capsules created shortly after 9/11 and opened Thursday at Monticello Trails Middle School.

As a few special guests looked on, students from both Mill Valley and De Soto High Schools opened the capsules as part of their honors archeology class, taught by Keil Hileman.

Ten years ago, Hileman, who also teaches middle school history at Monticello Trails in a room resembling a museum, had already planned to have his seventh-graders create a time capsule. Then the Sept. 11 attacks happened, and everything snowballed, he said.

“It was a Tuesday,” Hileman said upon looking at one paper. “Did you remember it was a Tuesday?”

“Yes,” Shirley Hemenway said. “Yes, I remember it was a Tuesday.”

Hemenway, a former cafeteria worker at Monticello Trails, is in a lot of stories this time of year. Her son Ronald, an electronics technician with the Navy, was killed on 9/11 in the attack on the Pentagon.

At one point Thursday, Ronald’s father, Bob, brought in a large framed photo of his son, which Shirley silently held in front of flashing cameras.

The Hemenways moved to Shawnee about a decade ago, after living in Alaska. Ronald graduated from Wasilla High School in 1982 with, as it happens, Sarah Palin, who later wrote the Hemenways to express her condolences.

Within minutes of the capsules’ opening, Shirley recalled the fear people had after 9/11. By that time, she worked for Disney and remembered fielding phone calls from people wanting to cancel their trips to Disneyland. Finally, she had enough.

“I told them, ‘Listen, my son died on 9/11, you have to live your life,’” she said. “You can’t let the terrorists win.”

•••

The capsules at Monticello Trails — ammunition containers donated by a World War II veteran — also housed a navy blue T-shirt with “New York” on its front, calendars, VHS cassette tapes and red, white and blue baseballs.

“Here’s a flag from one of the newspapers,” Shirley said. “That’s what I’d like to see come back: Everybody putting their flags up.”

There was a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box, folded flat and adorned by an American flag — “See what they did there?” Shirley said — and an AOL Platinum Premium CD offering 1,000 free hours of Internet. Hileman studied it, trying at first to remember why he included it before noticing its American flag.

“Everybody was putting red, white and blue on everything,” he said.

Debbie Austin, a Gardner resident whose son, Shane, died serving in the Army in Afghanistan, let out a gasp when she saw a jigsaw puzzle that paired the scene of firefighters erecting a flag at ground zero with that of soldiers doing the same at Iwo Jima during World War II. Austin is a member of the Northeast Kansas chapter of Gold Star Mothers, an organization for mothers whose sons and daughters died while serving in the armed forces. Hemenway is the chapter’s president.

“This was very powerful,” Austin later said. “It’s good to know we’re making sure we educate this generation.”

Also inside the capsules: Flag stickers, flag lapel pins of various sizes, flag keychains, one flag flip flop and a small, thin oval keychain that read “My Pride and Joy.” On the other side of the keychain was a photo of Hileman’s wife and then-young daughter, who became “addicted to flags,” Hileman said, because of 9/11.

•••

Hileman’s voice was a constant presence in the room Thursday. He often paused to share a story or talk about a particular item found inside the capsule.

His enthusiasm never tapered, giving equal attention to an AOL CD as to an actual piece of one of the World Trade Center towers he had acquired.

At one point, Hileman held up an old, faded Osco Drug store receipt from one of the 9/11 stickers he bought and slapped on one of the two Jeeps he’s had since the attacks.

One sticker read “United We Stand,” the other, “We Will Remember.”

“We say that and sometimes we forget,” Hileman said. “This time of year is a good time for us to remember what we have as Americans and what we lost that day.”

Ed Crane, a Kansas National Guard recruiter from Lenexa, also joined Hileman on Thursday. Crane said he’s working on securing a larger container from Fort Riley for the next time capsule.

“Everything we’re looking at is that moment in time,” he said. “We’ve got to keep this going.”

Paige Gilbert, a Mill Valley senior who helped open one of the capsules, was a second-grader when the attacks occurred. She came home from school that day to find her dad in their garage watching footage on the television of the twin towers falling.

Until Thursday, Gilbert hadn’t met anyone directly affected by the attacks.

“Looking at videos and hearing personal stories make it much more realistic,” she said.

Any memories Mill Valley senior Josh Johnston had, he said, were brought to the forefront Thursday. He remembers the aftermath of 9/11, of President George W. Bush declaring war on terror — a scene portrayed on the pages of many newspapers sealed in the original capsule.

Upon graduation, Johnston will follow a dream he said he’s had since he was in seventh-grade: He’s enlisted in the Marine Corps.

By Stephen Montemayor

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KU gives state $4.5 million; state spends it on Capitol restoration

Kansas University on Friday gave back $4.5 million to the state government, which immediately applied it to the Capitol restoration project.

The State Finance Council, chaired by Gov. Sam Brownback, approved the transfer.

Brownback quipped that KU's only requirement was that "we paint the Indian (statue) on top of the Capitol red and blue."

The money came from bond proceeds for the recently-completed KU pharmacy building on west campus. The pharmacy building was completed $4.5 million under budget because of lower than expected construction costs caused by the recession, officials said.

Rebecca Floyd, executive vice president of the Kansas Development Finance Authority, said the transfer of $4.5 million will reduce a bond issue for the Capitol restoration project by the same amount.

"This will result in significant economic savings to the state of Kansas and taxpayers," she said.

The long-running restoration of the Statehouse is currently projected to cost about $285 million.

Legislative veterans on the Finance Council congratulated KU on finishing the pharmacy building under budget. "This doesn't happen very often," said Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton.

By Scott Rothschild

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Regents looking to polish social network

The Kansas Board of Regents wants to establish the political equivalent of “date night” with each state legislator and Gov. Sam Brownback.

At a regents retreat last week, a theme that came through loud and clear from board members was that they need to get chummier with the Legislature and the governor.

Regent Tim Emert of Independence, a former legislator who rose to be Senate majority leader, said making contacts with those who control the purse strings and those who help form public opinion is paramount in advancing higher education initiatives in the state.

“We just have not done a good job of telling our story to the world and presenting ourselves as a system,” Emert said.

Newly appointed regent Kenny Wilk of Lansing, also a former legislator who chaired several powerful committees, said the regents should make sure they establish relationships with the new crop of legislators, who in several years will be holding leadership positions.

He noted that the 2010 election produced 37 new House members. “That’s a lot of people,” he said.

Regent Chair Ed McKechnie of Arcadia, another former House member, said he would like to schedule individual face time between board members and legislators.

He also wants to make senior staff at the regents available as contacts for every member of the 125-member House and 40-member Senate.

“What I am really trying to do is to make sure we are not leaving anybody behind from an informational basis,” he said.

When Brownback spoke with the regents, he said that the best way to get on his good side and that of the Legislature and public is to set measurable targets for regents universities that will produce results. Otherwise, he said, the only message that is heard is “we just want more money.”

And Brownback said showing a little love wouldn’t hurt either. He noted that he doesn’t get much applause for defending the regents’ budget and that higher education avoided deep cuts during the past legislative session for the first time in three years.

“I hope you thanked and hugged your legislators,” he said.

By Scott Rothschild

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Brownback tells regents to improve academic rankings of schools

Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday told higher education officials that they must improve the academic rankings of Kansas universities and that he has no problem with raising admission standards at the schools.

But the Republican governor also told the Kansas Board of Regents not to expect much extra funding for higher education. He warned of tight budget times ahead because of pressures to cut the federal budget.

“Our revenues are starting to come back as a state, but they are not coming back as fast as we are losing federal monies,” he said.

He said Kansas schools need to focus on core strengths and that may mean that some less-used degree programs should be disbanded.

Brownback’s comments came during a wide-ranging discussion with the regents, which completed its three-day retreat.

Regent Robba Moran of Hays said she agreed with Brownback’s position. “The more specific and targeted we are, totally makes sense,” she said.

Brownback said the regents should set goals for the higher education system, measure them and implement consequences if the marks aren’t met.

He cited the U.S. News & World Report ranking of Kansas University, Kansas State University and other regents schools, and said improvement must be made. In the 2010 report, KU ranked 47th among national public universities and K-State, 66th.

“We have got to do better than that,” Brownback said. He said improving the quality of the higher education is key to reversing negative economic trends.

“You have probably the best asset pool we have to change these numbers,” he told the regents.

Since a sizable portion of the academic rankings deals with admission standards, Brownback said he would support individual universities tightening standards as long as Kansas high school graduates still had the opportunity to attend a regents school.

Brownback also said he wants to increase emphasis on technical training in high schools and colleges, saying that most future jobs will require some kind of technical skill.

Regent Dan Lykins of Topeka noted that for the first time in history, tuition is making up more of funding higher education than state appropriations. He asked Brownback if that will continue.

Brownback answered, “It’s going to be very competitive for state dollars for some time.”

By Scott Rothschild

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5 Questions: Back to School

School is starting across the region. For many parents, this year will mark their child’s first year in school. This week, we turned to the National PTA about what parents can do to help their kindergartners achieve success and build a strong foundation for future years of schooling.

Q: What lessons can my kindergartner expect regarding language skills?

A: Your child will learn about the alphabet and its role in reading. Your child will practice rhyming, matching words with beginning sounds, and blending sounds into words. Your child also will begin to experiment with writing and will be encouraged to use a combination of drawing, dictating and writing letters to share information, ideas, and feelings.

Q: What about mathematics?

A: Children arrive in kindergarten with widely varying knowledge in math. By the end of the year, your child must have some important foundations in place. One of the most important skills is the ability to add and subtract small numbers and use addition and subtraction to solve word problems.

Q: What can a parent to do to help?

A: Learning does not end in the classroom. Children need help and support at home to succeed in their studies. Try to create a quiet place for your child to study, and carve out time every day when your child can concentrate on reading, writing and math uninterrupted by friends, brothers or sisters, or other distractions.

Q: How hands-on should parents be with homework help?

A: You should sit down with your child at least once a week for 15 to 30 minutes while he or she works on homework. This will inform you about what your child is working on, and it will help you know if your child needs help with specific topics.

Q: Where can I learn more?

A: Go online to pta.org or corestandards.org.

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Regents want to get on Brownback’s side in budget talks

Last year, the Kansas Board of Regents approved a plan called the Kansas Commitment that would have required $50 million in additional funding for public higher education.

But Gov. Sam Brownback rejected that proposal, saying that the increase wasn't possible given what at the time was a projected $500 million state budget shortfall.

This time, regents say, they want to get on Brownback's side in upcoming budget talks.

Fred Logan Jr. of Leawood, who was recently appointed to the regents by Brownback, said Tuesday it would serve the board well to be on the same page as the governor.

"I prefer a very realistic approach that gets us aligned with the executive. I would say regardless of who the governor is, that is always the smart move," Logan said. "I don't care if it's on the left or the right," he said.

He got general agreement from most of the other regents, who noted that the governor's budget proposal is frequently given a lot of consideration in the Legislature.

During a retreat at Pittsburg State University, the board discussed its approach in upcoming budget talks with Brownback's office and the Legislature, which starts the 2012 session in January.

Regents frequently face the dilemma of requesting funds for what they believe is needed to advance higher education in Kansas and what they hope they can get from political leaders.

Leading up to the last legislative session, higher education had been cut $100 million because of the state's revenue problems during the recession. The regents had sought to make up some of those cuts through the Kansas Commitment.

But Brownback rejected the idea. He did, however, steer clear of deep cuts to higher education and signed into law an initiative to produce more engineering graduates.

The regents will meet with Brownback on Wednesday.

Several board members and university leaders said they hoped to be able to make the case with Brownback that the schools need some additional funding for pay raises for faculty who have not seen a general increase in several years.

"We have lost ground with faculty (pay) in the last three years," said Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

She said faculty salaries at KU are below that of peer universities, and KU is starting to lose some of its best professors to other schools that provide better offers. She said when KU fails to retain a star researcher it also loses research grants that person brings in, plus the investments that KU made.

Gray-Little said even when KU is able to increase a salary to retain a top-notch instructor that creates tension down the line to increase other salaries.

Regent Chairman Ed McKechnie of Arcadia said he hoped to be able to put together a budget proposal that would provide for a merit increase for faculty.

Pittsburg State President Steve Scott said classified employees also need a raise. "The classified are not doing well. We've got some real morale issues growing," he said.

By Scott Rothschild

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Education supporters decry funding cuts to public schools

Several hundred supporters of public education on Saturday criticized state funding cuts to schools and sounded the alarm about Gov. Sam Brownback's agenda.

Kathy Cook, executive director of Kansas Families for Education, said Brownback's stated intention to cut the state income tax would reduce revenue available for education.

"Our schools would face cuts like they've never seen before," Cook said to rally-goers outside the Capitol.

Brownback has said Kansas' tax structure needs to be changed to attract more businesses and improve the economy.

And House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said next year's fight in the Legislature will be between "restoring cuts to eduction or tax cuts for big business."

Since Brownback has taken office, base state aid has been cut by $232 per student bringing it to $3,780 per student, which is the lowest level since 1999. Brownback has defended his actions, saying they were necessary to balance the state budget in tough economic times.

Mark Desetti, with the Kansas National Education Association, said Brownback and the Legislature have approved "20th century funding for a 21st century education."

Brownback has also said he wants to overhaul the school finance system because it is frequently under legal challenge. School supporters at the rally said they didn't see anything good coming out of that.

The rally was held in conjunction with similar events across the nation.

It was sponsored by Kansas Families for Education, Kansas NEA, and the American Federation of Teachers-Kansas. Several other unions showed support at the rally.

By Scott Rothschild

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Educators brush up on research

Scott Sharp and Drew Ising are spending their summers inside a first-floor laboratory at Kansas University’s Learned Hall as they study ways to profitably turn algae into biofuels.

What makes the duo unique isn’t their research — that’s a question being explored around the world. It’s the fact that Sharp and Ising are high school science teachers — not Ph.D candidates or tenured professors — who are looking for ways to translate the research they are doing at KU into lesson plans for their classrooms.

“Schools of education tell you, you must do research with your students. But our preparatory schools for teaching have no research experience. So you are trying to teach something you have never done,” said Sharp, who teaches AP biology, Kansas natural history and biotech engineering at De Soto High School. “This is going to make it a lot easier. After 10 years of teaching, I think this is going to take my teaching to the next level.”

Research experience

Sharp and Ising, who teaches biology and environmental science at Junction City High School, are among seven high school science teachers and one community college professor who are spending six weeks at KU as part of the Research Experiences for Teachers program.

The program, which is funded for three years through a $500,000 National Science Foundation Grant, focuses specifically on biofuels and is centered on research being conducted with the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis and the Transportation Research Institute.

Partnering with a broad spectrum of KU scientists, the teachers are researching ways to maximize the growth of algae so it can be more affordable to convert to biofuels, how to extract oil from algae, how to turn oil into biofuels, what to do with the byproducts and how biofuels work in engines.

“We are getting to have an authentic research experience,” Sharp said.

New lessons

As other teachers are researching ways to create fuels and burn them, Lawrence High School physics teacher Alan Gleue is at the other end of the spectrum. He’s spent the summer studying ways to reduce energy consumption.

With a device that measures energy usage, Gleue created lesson plans that will have students look at the difference in cost, energy use and carbon emissions for running a traditional incandescent light bulb, compact fluorescent bulb and LED light.

“I think it could really hit home for them,” Gleue said of how he hopes his students will receive the lesson.

He’s also collected household appliances for students to measure their energy usage, has a mini solar panel that can charge a cellphone and a radio that runs off a hand crank generator.

“We have the opportunity to really think about and develop new lesson plans over the summer. And we have the time and we have the resources,” Gleue said.

Engaging students

Gleue not only anticipates taking those lesson plans into his classroom — the Web-based program is intended to be used by other teachers.

As part of the program, the group of teachers spent two days at the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center in Greenbush to pass on their lesson plans to other Kansas high school science teachers.

“Rather than a straight lab activity with a cookbook recipe, these guys are trying to create something that is engaging for students so they are doing more research in the high school setting,” said Claudia Bode, the education director for the Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis.

For the seminar in Greenbush, each of the teachers who attended received took kits worth about $100 that would help them implement the experiments in the classroom.

In the case of Sharp and Ising, their kits included clear long plastic tubes that can be used to help determine how much algae is in water. They also are handing out small aquariums for growing algae. Ising plans to use the setup for students to study what happens to algae when fertilizer and other chemicals are added to water.

“They are going to be held more accountable to actually answer questions. A lot of times we as teachers are in such a hurry to get through an activity so we can go to the next one that we don’t let our students go further to elaborate on another question,” Ising said. “A good science experiment creates just as many questions as it answers.”

And soon, the teachers will get the chance to take those lessons for a dry run at KU’s engineering camp.

Along with the opportunity to do research, the program includes a $8,000 stipend for participating high school teachers and another $1,000 to spend on equipment for the classroom.

But the extra cash isn’t the only benefit to the program.

“I’m a scientist too now. … I’m not just a teacher,” Ising said. “I’m now much more confident and comfortable acting as this expert to my students. You don’t have to know everything, you just have to have the experience.”

By Christine Metz

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