When the 2014 session of the Kansas Legislature opened in mid-January, Governor Brownback proposed a budget that saw partial restorations of the cuts made to the University of Kansas last year.
Over the past two months, I and several other leaders from our university have met with legislators and testified to committees in support of the Governor’s Budget. We outlined how the proposals for higher education would help us better serve Kansans and achieve the shared aspirations we have for the university.
Complicating budget discussions this year was the Kansas Supreme Court’s long-expected ruling on funding for K-12 schools. That decision was issued Friday, with the court ruling that two elements of Kansas’ current school funding practices are unconstitutional. The justices called for legislative action on those elements by July 1, but sent the overall question of base aid per-pupil back to the district court for further deliberation. This adds some clarity to the budget discussion.
As you’ll recall, in October we welcomed legislative leaders and members of the budget committees to the university. We had lengthy and productive discussions about the mission and role of the university with the policymakers who will now be considering KU’s budget.
This afternoon, the Senate Ways & Means Subcommittee on Education is scheduled to take action on the budget for the state’s universities, sending recommendations to the full committee, which will then make recommendations to the full Senate. The House Appropriations Committee has previously approved the Governor’s Budget for higher education, but could still make changes to it before sending its recommendations to the full House later this week.
I will keep you updated as these and other issues important to the university move through the Kansas Legislature. You can also read weekly updates from the Statehouse, as well as receive information on advocating for KU by joining Jayhawks for Higher Education.
Also under discussion in Topeka, as well as at campuses across the state and nation, are the rights and responsibilities we have as faculty and staff at a public university. The catalyst for the recent discussion in Kansas is the Board of Regents’ social media policy.
A committee of faculty and staff, including three members from KU, has drafted a revised policy. I encourage you to review and provide feedback on that draft so that the committee can incorporate your thoughts into the version it presents to the Board of Regents this spring.
In the end, the best way we can advocate for our university is by continuing to pursue our bold aspirations. Fulfilling our mission of educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world will help demonstrate to policymakers the benefits that accrue to a state that supports its flagship university.