Posts tagged with Education

Brownback announces appointments to Kansas Board of Regents

Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday, July 8 made three appointments to the Kansas Board of Regents and said he wants to see improvements in the higher education system.

“I think in the United States, if you’re going to walk out on the field, you better aspire to be the top at it, or it’s questionable whether you ought to walk out on that field,” Brownback said.

He said that means higher education institutions in Kansas will need to jettison programs that aren’t attracting students so that the schools can concentrate their resources in priority areas.

“We’ve got to make the best use of resources,” Brownback said, adding that he knows schools are continually analyzing programs.

In his first appointments to the regents, Brownback picked Fred Logan Jr., an attorney from Leawood and former Kansas Republican Party chairman; Robba Addison Moran, who has worked as a law associate and is the wife of U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; and Kenny Wilk, a former high-ranking House member from Lansing who was chairman of Brownback’s transition team.

Brownback said his choices for the board are among the most important he will make because the regents will play a key role in helping improve the Kansas economy.

The appointments are subject to Senate confirmation when the Legislature returns in January, but in the meantime they will be able to serve.

Brownback also dismissed a pending proposal before the Legislature to amend the Kansas Constitution to do away with the regents and State Board of Education and replace them with a Cabinet secretary position.

“We’re proceeding with what we have here. I think we can work well with the regents system, and my focus is going to be at getting excellence at our education and our regents systems,” he said.

The nine-member board is the governing board of the state’s six public universities, including Kansas University, and the coordinating board for the state’s 32 public higher education institutions.

This includes seven public universities, 19 community colleges and six technical colleges.

Terms have ended for Jarold “Jerry” Boettcher of Manhattan; Richard Hedges of Fort Scott and Gary Sherrer of Overland Park. Sherrer had resigned in May. Each was appointed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat.

The three appointees praised the state’s higher education institutions but also vowed to work to make them better.

“We need to get from good to excellent,” said Moran. She also said the state needs to focus more on technical colleges. “We need to be sure we have a workforce that is capable of using their hands as well as they minds.”

Because of dwindling tax funds, state funding to higher education was cut the previous two fiscal years by $100 million, or 12 percent. Recently, tuition overtook general funding as the major source of funding at universities for the first time in state history.

Brownback’s budget proposal kept higher education funding level for the current fiscal year. In addition, he signed into law initiatives to increase engineering graduates at Kansas University, Kansas State and Wichita State.

Wilk, who chaired both the House tax and appropriations committees during his 16 years in the Legislature, said he saw more potential for schools to raise money from private sources if they show improvement.

“Something that Kansas is blessed with — tremendously blessed with — is philanthropic money. When we get things right, I think you’ll see that philanthropic money continue to increase,” he said.

Logan, who has served on the Johnson County Community College board of trustees, said Brownback was calling for excellence and not down-playing liberal arts.

“There will even be room for poets,” Logan said. “Excellence is not a narrow thing.”

By Scott Rothschild

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Committee of students, faculty, administrators helps shape Kansas University’s tuition proposals

Before Kansas University presented its tuition proposal to the Kansas Board of Regents, much of the discussion on it took place among a 19-member advisory committee that helped set the new rates.

The eight students, five faculty, four administrators and two staff members took time to examine proposals, and offered feedback on how they wanted tuition funds used.

Lisa Wolf-Wendel, a professor in the School of Education, served on the committee, and said a lot of the discussion focused on how to best allocate money for raises for faculty and staff.

The group was divided into two camps, she said. One of who wanted to see the targeted raises for the most excellent faculty, and another who was concerned about the effects that might have on the morale of overall faculty.

If faculty were rated on a scale from one to five, no one in the group wanted to reward faculty who got a two, she said. Some were concerned about where the line would be drawn to determine who would get raises, she said.

“There’s probably more than 10 percent (of KU faculty) who are great,” she said.

The group eventually settled on targeted raises to top faculty and staff — with no raises given until January.

For the Lawrence campus, only one student on the committee — a student seeking a master’s degree — would actually be paying a higher tuition rate next fall.

The other students on the committee were either graduating seniors or were among the nearly two-thirds of KU students whose tuition would not increase because their rates are guaranteed not to increase for four years. The rate for incoming freshmen went up by more than 6 percent.

Jack Martin, a KU spokesman, said the group played an important role, as it set the recommendations forwarded to the chancellor. He said the students on the committee were chosen by student government representatives.

Regardless of where they were in their careers, he said the students were mindful of keeping tuition low, and weren’t focused on the benefits they would get for themselves without paying any extra money.

“I just don’t think they think like that,” he said.

Brandon Kuzara, a sophomore from Colorado Springs, Colo., said he was asked by a friend in student governance to serve on the committee, though he wasn’t involved in governance himself. They were looking for a male, out-of-state student, he said.

He said he felt like students’ voices were heard, and they held the line on raises for faculty and staff.

“We didn’t like what we initially heard,” Kuzara said, and the group agreed to change it. He also said the discussions remained collegial.

In addition to raises, students also pushed for more financial aid, and the return of learning communities, groups of students who take courses based on a central theme. Those had been eliminated in prior budget cuts.

Kuzara said even though he wasn’t personally facing a tuition increase, he was compelled to keep out-of-state tuition low, because that’s one of the main reasons he was attracted to KU.

“Being from out of state, the tuition at the University of Kansas was very competitive,” he said, and he wanted to ensure it stayed that way. “I didn’t want to see a 10- to 15-percent increase.”

By Andy Hyland

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In tough times for schools, teaching degrees still sought

Though teachers are being laid off at an increasing level across the state, schools that train teachers aren’t overreacting to the bad economic news.

At Kansas University, the school does have some caps in enrollments, but not an overall cap, said Rick Ginsberg, dean of the KU School of Education.

“We’ve always limited enrollment in some of our programs,” he said.

Some of those are tied to the job market — for instance, the state doesn’t need as many elementary school teachers right now, he said.

Other caps are tied to budgetary constraints and are designed to keep class sizes low, he said.

The KU education school’s enrollment has fallen since fall 2008, when it was 2,036, to 1,911 in fall 2010.

Ginsberg said in today’s job market, recently graduated teachers might do well to prepare themselves to have to be mobile and to be willing to work outside their preferred place to live.

At Emporia State University, the Teachers College accepts the students who meet their requirements academically.

“We don’t have caps on our programs,” said Ken Weaver, associate dean of the college.

Still, he said, the shrinking market is a concern. He recalled shivering outside in the cold during the school’s most recent spring commencement.

“I’m wondering, not only for our graduates, but for graduates throughout the state that are preparing to graduate, what will happen to them?” he said.

By Andy Hyland

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Regents members want legislators to consider state funding’s effect on tuition

Kansas Board of Regents members on Wednesday said legislators need to know that how much they fund schools — or don’t fund schools — affects how much students pay in tuition.

“Tuition ought to be part of this discussion,” said acting regents chair Ed McKechnie.

The board, which oversees higher education in Kansas, is preparing a proposed budget to be submitted to Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature.

On Thursday the board is expected to approve tuition increases for all six public universities, including Kansas University.

KU has proposed increasing tuition and required fees from $4,012 to $4,234, a $222 or 5.5 percent increase for an undergraduate taking 15 hours. The tuition for a non-Kansas resident would increase from $9,504 to $10,179, a $675 increase or 7.1 percent.

Graduate students would face a 5.5 percent increase for residents and 5.9 percent for nonresidents.

Tuition and fees under the KU Compact — first-time, degree-seeking freshman — would be fixed for four years and would increase from $4,366 to $4,611, or $245, a 5.6 percent increase. Nonresident students would see an increase from $10,769 to $11,304, or 5 percent.

The board has come under fire in recent years for approving tuition increases that exceed inflation, but regents have noted that the Legislature’s funding of higher education continues to decline.

McKechnie, a former legislator and member of the House Appropriations Committee, said when board members meet for a retreat in August they should discuss ways to approach legislators.

"Do we say to the Legislature that we really need this amount, and if you don’t fund this, tuition is going to be 'X'?," McKechnie said.

He said higher education officials also need to emphasize to legislators that there are system-wide costs that are beyond their control, such as health insurance and utilities.

Like much of state government, public higher education has sustained budget cuts over the past couple of years.

The budget just signed into law by Brownback allocates an estimated $744 million to higher education for the fiscal year that starts July 1. That compares with $753 million for the current fiscal year. During the two years prior to that, higher education was cut by $100 million.

Board members said they hope to get a proposed budget for the next fiscal year to Brownback by Sept. 15. Brownback will submit his budget recommendation to the Legislature in January when the 2012 session starts.

In recent years, the board has started budget discussions later in the year, but now officials said they wanted to begin earlier to get more input.

“Trying to move this up a little bit is helpful all the way around,” said Regents President and Chief Executive Officer Andy Tompkins.

By Scott Rothschild

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Teacher retirements, reductions increase dramatically

Kansas classrooms are losing teachers in record numbers, a report released Tuesday shows, and that is because of cuts to schools and changes in the public employee pension system, education officials said.

“There are a tremendous number of attacks going on against teachers today,” said State Board of Education Chairman David Dennis, a Republican from Wichita.

Dennis said low pay, increased pension costs and a push by Republican leaders to try to replace the current pension system and switch to a 401(k)-style plan are all factors.

“If I was in college right now looking at what I want to do with the rest of my life, I am not sure I would chose teaching as a profession,” said Dennis, who is a public school teacher.

In addition, the budget signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Sam Brownback will cut schools by about $100 million, according to the Kansas Association of School Boards. Base state aid will decrease $232 per student, to a 10-year low of $3,780 per student.

The new report showed dramatic increases in teacher retirements and layoffs — called reductions in force — in Kansas over the last two years when public school funding has been cut.

More than 1,500 teachers retired in the 2010-11 school year, as compared with a range of 1,028 to 1,092 over each of the four previous years, the report said.

Reductions in force totaled 350 this school year and 260 last year. The previous three years had reductions in force of 49, 21 and 7.

The statistics were in a report presented to the State Board of Education. And officials said those numbers may be low because they were collected in February.

Pamela Coleman, director of teacher education and licensure at the Kansas Department of Education, said teacher retirements have increased because “people wanted to retire to ensure that KPERS (Kansas Public Employees Retirement System) would be there in their retirement.”

By Scott Rothschild

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Teacher retirements, reductions increase dramatically

Kansas classrooms are losing teachers in record numbers, a report released Tuesday shows, and that is because of cuts to schools and changes in the public employee pension system, education officials said.

“There are a tremendous number of attacks going on against teachers today,” said State Board of Education Chairman David Dennis, a Republican from Wichita.

Dennis said low pay, increased pension costs and a push by Republican leaders to try to replace the current pension system and switch to a 401(k)-style plan are all factors.

“If I was in college right now looking at what I want to do with the rest of my life, I am not sure I would chose teaching as a profession,” said Dennis, who is a public school teacher.

In addition, the budget signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Sam Brownback will cut schools by about $100 million, according to the Kansas Association of School Boards. Base state aid will decrease $232 per student, to a 10-year low of $3,780 per student.

The new report showed dramatic increases in teacher retirements and layoffs — called reductions in force — in Kansas over the last two years when public school funding has been cut.

More than 1,500 teachers retired in the 2010-11 school year, as compared with a range of 1,028 to 1,092 over each of the four previous years, the report said.

Reductions in force totaled 350 this school year and 260 last year. The previous three years had reductions in force of 49, 21 and 7.

The statistics were in a report presented to the State Board of Education. And officials said those numbers may be low because they were collected in February.

Pamela Coleman, director of teacher education and licensure at the Kansas Department of Education, said teacher retirements have increased because “people wanted to retire to ensure that KPERS (Kansas Public Employees Retirement System) would be there in their retirement.”

By Scott Rothschild

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State Board of Education begins 2012-13 budget talks amid cuts in state support

School officials Tuesday loaded up for the next round of spending fights as the State Board of Education started budget talks.

Board Chairman David Dennis, a Republican from Wichita, and a school teacher, indicated he would push for an increase to make up for several years of school cuts.

“I got a great education,” as a child, Dennis said, and it was because “people sacrificed.”

But Walt Chappell, also of Wichita, and who just recently switched back to the Republican Party, said he wanted a plan that the Legislature, which sets appropriations, wouldn’t ignore.

The past two budget proposals from the board, he said, have been “dead on arrival.” He added, “I wonder if there is a more realistic way to put this budget together.”

The 10-member board will make a budget recommendation at its next monthly meeting in July, which will then be submitted to Gov. Sam Brownback’s office. In January, Brownback will propose to the Legislature a budget that will include a proposal for the 2012-13 school year.

School funding makes up about half the state budget, and amid historic revenue shortfalls, classrooms have been cut.

During the recently completed legislative session, the Legislature approved Brownback’s recommendation to decrease base state aid from $4,012 per student to $3,780 per student.

Just to bring that figure back up to $4,012 per student would require $154.5 million — about the same amount of revenue a one-half cent state sales tax increase would generate. To increase base state aid to the 2008-09 level of $4,400 per student would cost $412.9 million.

In addition, the state zeroed out funding for programs for teachers such as professional development and mentoring.

Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis told the board it has a difficult task in setting budget priorities. “These are tough decisions,” he said.

Board member David Dennis conceded state leaders are in no mood to consider a tax increase, but he said in his discussions with students’ parents, they have indicated they are willing to pay more.

He said it is the board’s responsibility to advocate for students and school districts.

By Scott Rothschild

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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signs measure to increase engineering graduates at KU and other schools

An initiative to increase the number of engineering graduates in Kansas, which had been dramatically resuscitated at the end of the legislative session, was given final approval Wednesday by Gov. Sam Brownback.

“This is a great day,” Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said after Brownback signed two higher-education engineering bills. “I’m happy to see us get to this point,” she said.

One bill authorizes KU to issue $65 million in bonds to build a 100,000-square-foot engineering classroom building next door to a $20 million engineering research building that is currently under construction.

The other bill allows KU, Kansas State and Wichita State each to receive $3.5 million annually from state gambling revenues. The funds, which must be matched by the schools, will be used to beef up engineering programs.

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, called the initiative a “jobs bill” that would help cure an engineering shortage.

As early as 2008, higher education and industry officials had been pushing for funds to help achieve a goal of increasing the number of engineering graduates in the state from 875 per year to 1,365 per year by 2021.

“In a session marked with many tough choices, this initiative is a choice I am proud to make -- a choice to get our state back on the road to job creation and economic recovery,” Morris said.

But the initiative faced uncertain odds late in the legislative session.

The Senate had approved a version of a bill that would have allowed $195 million in loans for engineering programs.

The House balked at the price so the bill sat in committee for weeks.

But as the session wound down, negotiators hammered out a compromise and signed it May 13, the last day of the session.

Brownback was adamant that the Department of Commerce provide oversight for the initiative, rather than the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees higher education. Brownback said the Commerce Department was better matched toward making sure the funding commitment produced jobs.

The bonding provision included only KU because the school was ready to push forward with its building plans.

“This is something we’ve been working on for quite a long period of time,” Gray-Little said.

By Scott Rothschild

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Chairman Gary Sherrer announces sudden and immediate resignation from Kansas Board of Regents

Gary Sherrer, the chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, on Wednesday shocked the Kansas political and higher education world by announcing his resignation at the regents’ monthly meeting and then walking out.

The former lieutenant governor who has been a high-profile figure in state government for years said there existed an environment of mistrust and disrespect between himself and several members of the board, which oversees higher education. When asked, he refused to mention any names.

“This negative relationship is not in the best interests of Kansas higher education,” said Sherrer, of Overland Park.

As Sherrer left, he received a standing ovation from the regents and those attending the meeting. “Thank you very much for your service to this board, and thank you for your service to the state of Kansas,” said Vice Chair Ed McKechnie of Arcadia, who then presided over the rest of the meeting.

Later, in speaking with reporters, Sherrer said he was upset that his fellow board members refused to select him to lead a search committee to find a new president at Emporia State University. The current ESU president, Michael Lane, had announced his intention to step down June 30.

Sherrer graduated from Emporia State and has fond memories of the school, saying it changed his life. He said it would have meant a lot to him to chair the search committee.

Sherrer’s four-year term on the board of regents was scheduled to expire at the end of June. But, he said, he didn’t want to wait to leave.

“I am getting too old to be in places I don’t want to be, with people I don’t want to be with,” said Sherrer, who is 70.

Board members said they were disappointed and stunned.

Regent Tim Emert, of Independence, said, “He has to do what he has to do.” He said Sherrer wasn’t selected to lead the search because he was too close to the situation at Emporia State.

“It’s very divisive down there,” Emert said. The current president, Lane, announced his departure, saying that after he had been mentioned as a candidate for the presidency at another school, some had questioned his desire for the ESU job.

Regent Christine Downey-Schmidt of Inman said she was surprised by Sherrer’s action. “We’re all feeling, ‘What just happened?’” she said.

She said she was sorry if Sherrer felt slighted but added that often individual regents members don’t get their way. The search committee hasn’t been designated yet.

Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said she had no idea Sherrer was stepping down but knew something was up when Sherrer started talking about his accomplishments on the board.

Gray-Little said she knew of no problems among board members and if there were any, she said, they wouldn’t involve the universities.

Sherrer, a Republican, was appointed to the board by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, in 2007. He served as lieutenant governor and secretary of commerce under former Gov. Bill Graves, a Republican.

During his time on the board, Sherrer said he was able to initiate long-range planning and higher education advocacy projects. He also chaired a task force that led to adoption of legislation giving the regents the ability to raise admission standards.

Sherrer said he didn’t expect to be re-appointed to the regents by Gov. Sam Brownback, also a Republican.

Statement from Gary Sherrer

*May 18, 2011

For some time there have been serious philosophical differences between myself and some members of the Board of Regents. I believe Regents have a responsibility to aggressively seek and implement changes required to provide a competitive, high quality 21st Century system of higher education. Some Board members have opposed this philosophy and prefer a more laissez-faire approach to governance. Unfortunately, some Board members have made these issues personal and allowed personal feelings to influence them in important Board decisions. There now exists an atmosphere of mutual disrespect and distrust between many Board members and myself. This negative relationship is not in the best interests of Kansas higher education. Therefore, I am resigning as a member of the Kansas Board of Regents.

I am proud of my service on the Board. Governor Sebelius asked me to “make a difference” and I believe I have. Some of the accomplishments include:

  • Initiating the questions and concerns that with the able leadership of Reggie Robinson and Andy Tompkins resulted in Foresight 2020, a strategic plan for all of higher education.

  • Chaired two task forces on admissions. One resulted in legislation giving the Board authority over admissions standards, and one that raised the standards.

  • Implementation of employee background checks at all state universities.

  • Enhanced CEO evaluations including “360” surveys and first semester visits by teams of Regents focused on CEO goals.

  • Regents for the first time conducted a visit to all community college and technical college campuses.

  • Economic impact study showing the value of the state’s investment in higher education at all levels.

  • Design of the Kansas Commitment, in advocacy for funding of higher education. Contained the basic elements of the recently-passed engineering initiative.

  • Appointment of an Articulation and Transfer Task Force that has as a focus enhancing the transfer of credits to universities from community colleges and technical colleges.

There are great things happening in Kansas higher education. I am grateful to those who lead it, I will miss working with them, and I wish them continued success.

Gary Sherrer*

By Scott Rothschild

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5 Questions: Staying relevant

As the school year winds to a close, students in schools across the country are wrapping up a yearlong process to produce their schools’ annual yearbooks.

We contacted Richard Stoebe, director of communications for Jostens, one of the nation’s largest publishers of yearbooks, to ask him about the status of yearbooks in the second decade of the 2000s.

Q: What’s the allure of yearbooks in the digital era?

A: Printed yearbooks are a timeless part of school tradition and culture.

Q: Are they unique?

A: They are unique in that they are created for students by students who develop important journalism and life skills through the experience.

Q: How would you describe yearbooks today, as compared with those from the 1950s to the 1990s?

A: Yearbook trends include all-color books and personalization and customization options that empower all students to be a part of their school yearbook beyond class photos. Jostens now offers a way for students to create their own personal yearbook pages that appear in their own copy of the school yearbook.

Q: Are yearbook sales still as popular today with students as they were, say, 20 years ago?

A: The school yearbook tradition remains strong in that virtually every school prints a yearbook.

Q: What’s the biggest change your business has experienced in the past decade?

A: The biggest change for our business is that digital technology allows us to create innovative ways for people to create personalized and customized products.

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