Election-year games harm higher ed

State assembly, governor remain uncommitted to students

| Staff Editorial |

At his State of the State address in Topeka earlier this month, Gov. Sam Brownback managed to find a few words of reassurance for Pittsburg State students. That is to say, lip service.
If Kansans take the governor at his word – a questionable choice on the issue of higher education – the legislature will in effect treat a gunshot with a Band-Aid.
Brownback says he wants to increase higher education funding by about half of the $44 million that was cut last year.
Those cuts isolated Kansas. It was only one of five states to cut university funding at all, and the cuts’ depth sustained Kansas’ image as a national laughingstock on education.
Unfortunately, Brownback’s proposal stands as the best-case scenario.
More likely, legislators will look on the governor’s request to restore higher ed funding as a good starting point, from which they can work backward.
The fact of the matter is that the legislature is infested with people who don’t even recognize that higher education funding should be a state concern.
Rep. Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, the speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives, has repeatedly refused to rule out additional cuts to higher ed.
Brownback has reasons to reject that thinking, even
if that’s just because of political pressure. Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, wants to boot him out of office this November, and a lot of Kansans are rightly prepared to give him a chance.
Still, if Brownback were serious about higher education funding, he would have vowed to veto any budget that installs additional higher ed cuts and put his full weight behind this proposal.
Sadly, there is not much to be done about it this year. The balance of politics in the state means that Brownback’s administration must march in lockstep with the state legislature.
Outside of some well-funded, extremist special-interest groups, he has few friends anywhere else.
Pittsburg State’s student government, helmed by Taylor Gravett, has opted to stop actively lobbying the legislature over higher education funding. They have openly acknowledged that legislators basically don’t care about this issue and that more campaigns won’t do much good.
Instead, they’ve pursued more specific goals, such as a program that could help lower course material costs for
students, and the recently successful campaign to extend Axe Library hours.
We may all be better off to just roll with the punches and try to accomplish something more tangibly beneficial to our university. The goal should be to find ways to make Pittsburg State succeed, despite Topeka’s determination to run Kansas into the ground.

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