Legislative Turnaround Recess: A Great Opportunity to Connect with Your Legislators

This week the 2014 Kansas legislative session will break for their annual Turnaround recess. Legislators will be in their home districts March 1st – 4th giving you the opportunity to share the importance of continued investment in higher education and, specifically, Pittsburg State University.
As a reminder, our advocacy this session is focused on supporting Governor Brownback’s higher education budget recommendations, which include the partial restoration of salary funding and the investment in a new Center for Career Technical Education Teacher Development and Innovation (CTE-TDI) at Pittsburg State University’s Kansas Technology Center.

Pittsburg State, along with other Kansas higher education institutions, is committed to providing students with degree programs that combine advanced academics with practical skill sets. This approach allows students to achieve their full potential while meeting the needs of the Kansas economy. As you well know, continued investment in Pittsburg State and higher education throughout Kansas will be essential to the growth of our state.

Legislators will return home during this extended weekend and many will be attending various town hall style meetings, breakfasts, and coffees. This is a great opportunity for you to share our message of growth.

For those Gorillas in southeast Kansas, one such opportunity will be the Pittsburg Area Chamber First Saturday Legislative Breakfast this Saturday, March 1, at 8 a.m. The breakfast will be held in DePaul Hall at Via Christi Hospital, 1 Mt Carmel Way, Pittsburg, KS.

If you know of other legislator public forums in your area, please share the information in the comments section below.

Thank you for your continued advocacy and Go Gorillas!

Governor Recommends Partial Restoration of Higher Education Budget Cuts as Well as New Targeted Investments

Yesterday, Governor Brownback presented his revised budget recommendations to the legislature (the full Budget Brief can be found here).  Among those proposed revisions are partial restoration of the FY14 and FY15 higher education budget cuts passed last legislative session. Included in the proposal is $8.33 million in new funding for targeted higher education investments – including a new $1 million annual enhancement for PSU’s proposed Center for Career Technical Education Teacher Development and Innovation  (CTE-TDI). Here’s the breakdown of the Governor’s higher education budget recommendations:

FY2014

  • 50% pro rata restoration of “salary cap” ($5.1M), distributed as follows:
    • FHSU – $0
    • KSU – $949,829
    • KSU-ESARP – $1.5M
    • ESU – $572,488
    • PSU – $0
    • KU – $77,935
    • KUMC – $1.7M
    • WSU – $281,267
  • Tiered Technical Education for High School Students – fully fund current estimate ($9.25M)

FY2015

  • 100% restoration of University “salary cap” ($5.8M)
  • Tiered Technical Education for High School Students - fully fund current estimate ($15.25M)
  • Targeted Enhancements:
    • Pittsburg State University – Center for CTE Teacher Development & Innovation ($1M)
    • Fort Hays State – Information Systems Engineering ($760,111)
    • Emporia State – Honors College ($1M)
    • Kansas State University – School of Architecture ($1.5M)
    • University of Kansas – Kansas Institute for Translational Chemical Biology ($2M)
    • KU Medical Center – Rural Health Bridging Program ($70,000)
    • Wichita State – Technology Transfer Facility ($2M)

In total, Governor Brownback’s recommendations would add or restore $14,4M in higher education spending for FY14 and $29.5M for FY15. While we are pleased with the inclusion of the proposed targeted investments, absent from the recommendations is the hoped for restoration of the 1.5% cut incurred by Kansas universities for both the current fiscal year and in FY15.  For PSU this cut represents more than $500,000 in our base operating budget. Our advocacy this session will focus on support for these revised recommendations as well as full restoration of the 1.5% cut in FY15.

Supreme Court Ruling will set the Session’s Course

At a glance …

  • Legislature awaits K-12 funding ruling by Kansas Supreme Court
  • If Supreme Court upholds lower court ruling, lawmakers will be asked to increase K-12 funding by approximately $450 million
  • Ruling will play major factor in direction of 2014 session

It certainly doesn’t feel like an entire year has gone by, but state lawmakers have returned to Topeka and the 2014 Legislative session is now officially underway. It seems as if every session turns on a specific topic put forward by lawmakers (in 2012 it was redistricting & incomes tax rates, in 2013 sales tax rates), but unlike year’s past, the 2014 session will be framed by the decision of an outside body.

The Kansas Supreme Court will soon release its decision as to the question of whether the state must comply with a lower-court ruling requiring the GOP-led legislature and Republican Sam Brownback to increase annual funding for K-12 education by an estimated $450 million, or 14% above last year’s level. (Wall Street Journal)

In light of recent dramatic tax cuts by the legislature, an affirmative ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court would place lawmakers in the delicate position of either creating new funding sources or cutting current funding streams to state agencies. As the Topeka Capital Journal notes, if the decision is upheld it “would bust a state budget that, despite [last session’s] sales tax decision, is already projected to run a deficit by 2018.”

Neither option is attractive. As you might imagine, lawmakers are anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s final decision which could come as early as this week.

State Investment in Higher Education at Risk

At a glance …

  • The 2013 State Legislature cut Pittsburg State’s budget by more than $1.5 million over two years
  • Pittsburg State’s base funding has been cut by  more than $5 million since 2008
  • State investment in Pittsburg State is at approximately the same level as it was in 2004
  • Pittsburg State enrollment has grown by more than 11 percent since 2004
  • While the 2013 Kansas Legislature cut higher education funding, 37 other states increased higher education funding

Just as the future of K-12 funding is unknown, so too is the level of investment the state will make in public higher-education. Last year, lawmakers cut higher-education by more than $37 million over a two year period as a result of their push to lower income tax cuts. This cut includes a flat 1.5 percent decrease in funding and a so-called “salary cap” provision that added an additional 1.1 percent loss in state funding. For Pittsburg State this meant a cut of more than $900,000 in Fiscal Year 14 or 2.6 percent with an additional $650,000 set to be cut in Fiscal Year 15.

Pittsburg State was able to accommodate the state’s reduced investment by adjusting its operating budget for FY14, but these types of cuts place Pitt State’s ability to compete at risk. In fact, Pittsburg State’s base funding has been cut by more than $5 million since 2008 and now sits at approximately the same level it did in 2004. Much has changed over the past 10 years, including Pitt State’s enrollment, which has grown by more than 11 percent in the past decade.

Pittsburg State did receive a targeted enhancement for a new polymer science program with an additional allocation of $500,000 per year but the cut to base funding was extremely disappointing giving Kansas’ strong tradition of offering one of the strongest statewide systems of higher education in the nation.

Our great state’s reputation of being a source of outstanding academics is now at risk. In fact, Kansas was one of only five states in the nation to cut its investment in higher education last year. A well-educated, well-prepared workforce is essential for business to grow and compete in the global marketplace.

The governor has indicated he intends to push for at least a partial restoration of funding for higher-ed this year, but the future for this funding is anything but certain. Pittsburg State will continue to advocate on behalf of its students, faculty and staff by urging lawmakers to remove the “salary cap” provision passed during last year’s session and restore the state’s investment in higher education.

Pittsburg State makes case for Kansas’ first Career Technical Education Development Program

At a glance …

  • Career & Technical Education Teacher Development & Innovation Center at Pittsburg State
  • CTE-TDI will train next generation of technical education teachers
  • CTE-TDI will allow state to take full advantage of its $20 million investment in Career & Technical Education Act
  • Pitt State’s CTE-TDI will improve state’s workforce & help bolster Kansas’ economy

 

Governor Brownback and the 2013 legislature passed a $20 million state program known as the Career and Technology Act to help students pay for technical training and become “career ready” graduates. This program is already encouraging students to return to the classroom and laboratory to learn new skills that will allow them to earn higher wages and rebuild the state’s economy.

The question is … who will teach them?

This type of instructor must possess the teaching skills of an experienced faculty member and the technical skills of an industry professional.

It can be difficult and expensive to try to recruit these instructors to our state and the competition for these individuals is fierce.

Thankfully, Pittsburg State University is in the unique position of having qualified faculty, state-of-the-art equipment, and a world-class facility to train the next generation of career and technical education instructors.

Pittsburg State is proposing the creation of a Career & Technical Education Teacher Development & Innovation Center (CTE-TDI) within the Kansas Technology Center. This will be a one-stop training facility for instructors throughout the state and help ensure that students are able to take full advantage of last year’s Career and Technology Act.

We see this as a natural extension of last year’s technical education effort by lawmakers and are making this one of our top priorities for this session. We invite you to learn more this initiative here (link to pdf) and speak to your local lawmaker about the positive difference Pittsburg State in the state’s level of technical education.

Governor Brownback’s State of the State Address

At a glance …

  • State of the State Address set for Wednesday, January 15 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Aired live on Pittsburg State’s public radio station, 89.9FM KRPS
  • Live reaction on Twitter at @capitolgorilla – hashtag #SOTS14

 

The legislative session may have started on Monday, but it really begins to get traction today with Governor Brownback’s State of the State Address. It will be during this speech that we will learn of the governor’s legislative priorities this session and where he believes the state is headed.

Keep in mind that this is also an election year for the governor who will face House Minority Leader Paul Davis in November. Financial disclosures submitted to the Governmental Ethics Commission in December show the governor with a lead in fundraising amounts as of Dec. 31.

The State of the State Address will take place tonight t 6:30 p.m. and can be heard in the Pittsburg area on Pittsburg State University’s public radio station, 89.9 FM, KRPS.

I encourage you to follow along on Twitter as I live-tweet reaction and headlines from the governor’s address on the @capitolgorilla twitter account. I’ll use the hashtag #SOTS14

New Addition to Gorilla Advocacy Team in Topeka

At a glance …

  • Riley Scott hired as new member of Gorilla government relations team
  • Scott brings years of political experience and expertise
  • Scott previously held positions in the offices of both Sen. Jerry Moran & Sen. Sam Brownback

 The importance of an effective and active network of Gorillas has never been more important than it is now. Just as Pittsburg State is an important contributor to the economic success of our state, so too is the state of Kansas an important partner in the continued success of Pittsburg State and its students.

We understand the importance of this relationship and are bolstering our efforts in Topeka on behalf of Gorillas everywhere.

I’m happy to announce that we are adding a new member to our advocacy team in Topeka in the form of Riley Scott. Mr. Scott has a great deal of political experience and is well known in Topeka. He served as deputy chief of staff for Sam Brownback when he was in Congress and was the deputy chief of staff and state director for U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

Riley earned his M.A. in Government and Political Communication from The Johns Hopkins University and a B.S. in Agriculture from Kansas State University.

He will be advocating on our behalf beginning with the 2014 session and will help reinforce the Gorilla message across the capital as well as help develop additional strategies for effective governmental relations. I’m excited to welcome Riley to the team and to be able to work alongside him in the halls of the statehouse as well as the steps of D.C.

Riley Scott Headshot

Riley Scott is joining Pittsburg State’s Gorilla advocacy team in Topeka.

 

Kansas One of Only 5 States to Cut Higher Education Funding

Kansas One of Only 5 States to Cut Higher Education Funding

With a rebounding economy 37 states increased funding to higher education this year. Unfortunately, Kansas was one of a small minority of states to reduce funding.  Higher education investment is essential to economic growth. Cutting funding when other states are increasing their investment places Kansas at a competitive disadvantage.

The Impact of Recent Budget Cuts on PSU

This year’s session was a lengthy one with lawmakers needing an additional nine days to agree on a budget and tax rates.

After 99 days the session ended Sunday morning with the passage of a two-year budget that includes significant cuts for public higher education in Kansas

These cuts came despite our session long advocacy efforts on behalf of the governor’s proposal to hold higher education funding flat.

In total, the budget includes cuts to higher education in excess of $37 million over a two-year period.

Included within the cuts is a 1.5% across-the-board reduction for both Fiscal Year 2014 and Fiscal Year 2015, a reduction in State General Funds based on a “salary cap” provision and the continued self-funding of the classified employee longevity program.

Here is how the legislature’s action will affect Pittsburg State University during FY 2014.

  • A 1.5% cut to base funding
  • A reduction in SGF funding as a result of the “salary cap” provision
  • Elimination of funding for the classified employee longevity program with the cost covered by the university

The end result is a total FY2014 cut to our base funding of more than $900,000 or 2.6% with an additional $650,000 cut in FY2015.

PSU’s base state funding has been cut by more than $5 million since 2008 and now sits at approximately the same level it did in 2004. These cuts have come at a time when the University has grown. Since 2004 our enrollment has grown by more than 11%. The end result is that we must do more with less to provide the same high level of education and career preparedness.

The targeted enhancement for our new polymer science program was funded with an additional allocation of $500,000 per year.

While we are thankful for the increased enhancement for the polymer chemistry program, we are very disappointed with the legislature’s decision to significantly cut base state support for higher education. As a result of their decision there will be incredible pressure on tuition rates which will inevitably hasten the shift in the cost of education on to students and families.

If policy makers are serious about making Kansas a business-friendly, pro-growth state, higher education must be a foundational investment. A well-educated, well-prepared workforce is essential for businesses to grow and compete in the global marketplace. Additionally, increasing the educational attainment of Kansans will enlarge the tax base by making them more employable and increasing their lifetime earning potential.  Probably most troubling is the fact that these cuts to Kansas higher education come at a time when at least 32 other states are increasing their investment in higher education placing our state at a competitive disadvantage.

Joplin Globe: Administrators, Kansas officials weigh in on higher-ed funding

Good piece by Andra Stefanoni in the Joplin Globe yesterday describing the budget showdown we are heading into next week and the potential impact on PSU and Kansas higher education.

Simply put, the cuts  proposed by House leadership would be devastating to our momentum and challenge our ability to fulfill our important mission. Please help us stop these proposed cuts.