Kansas lawmakers put education at risk with tax gamble

06/11/2013 5:48 PM

06/11/2013 5:50 PM

Reductions in state funding for higher education will have a negative impact on Johnson County. Both the K-State Olathe and University of Kansas Edwards campuses face budget cuts imposed by the recently adjourned Kansas Legislature. Both are left with the burden of maintaining their high standards with fewer dollars.

For the short term, the Johnson County Community College didn’t fare as badly. It was spared a reduction for the 2014 fiscal year beginning July 1.

But legislators did not provide a needed increase. Instead, the college was held to its current revenue level. Officials are assessing how they will cope with a flat revenue stream.

The ax falls heavier in fiscal year 2015, when JCCC allocations will be reduced by 1.5 percent. The college will lose about $250,000.

At K-State Olathe, the progress of five new programs is at risk, said Jeffery Morris, Kansas State University’s vice president for communications and marketing. At Edwards, some faculty positions will not be filled and infrastructure repairs will be deferred, according to Jack Martin, KU’s director of strategic communications.

As a consequence of the cuts, both universities are asking the Board of Regents for tuition increases. If they are granted, the additional expense will make it more difficult for low- and middle-income families to afford higher education.

The cuts, approved by an ultraconservative Republican-controlled Legislature, are undermining one of Kansas’ most valuable assets. These schools need more money, not less, to prepare young people for a competitive global economy.

Some legislators claim that slashing taxes creates more jobs. Starving higher education to accommodate lower taxes is no way to do that.

Well-educated and highly trained employees are essential to business and industry. That requires ample investment in education. What a pity that more legislators can’t grasp this realistic approach to expanding employment opportunities.

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