Higher education funding is being held hostage in Topeka. Gov. Sam Brownback’s recent flat-funding budget proposal, which foregoes further cuts in higher education, may appear to be a step in the right direction, but it is symptomatic of political maneuvering, rather than a genuine nod toward Kansas universities.
The Kansas Board of Regents seems to have bought into the strategy. They hoped for an increase, anticipated cuts and received neither. As such, KBOR hasn’t kicked up much fuss over Brownback’s stay-the-course proposition.
But what they fail to see is the precarious situation Brownback left them with in the first place. Not only was the state budget conundrum a direct result of Brownback’s tax cuts, but it comes as Brownback proposed initiative-specific funds in November 2012. It’s not flip-flopping – it’s simply not keeping a promise.
Stagnant state support for public universities can only mean more of the same: tuition that is unmanageable, loans that pile up by the minute and a growing inequity between larger and smaller Kansas universities. We are not unrealistic. We understand that balancing a budget requires a bit of fat trimming. But in what world is higher education “the fat?”
So much in politics is dictated by rhetoric. What a politician proposes they will support is almost as important as the political leg-work. If the trend is any indication, it seems as if we are on the verge of inevitable cuts to public universities and community colleges just to keep the state afloat. First we’re told there will be a small increase, then no increase, then a slash across the board. It is this type of predictable rhetoric that needs to be called out in every instance.
We’re sure every recipient of state funding has their own argument against impending budget reductions. That’s their fight to fight. Ours is preserving the integrity of Emporia State and, more broadly, education throughout Kansas. Topeka must first be honest with us and KBOR must fight for more than the status quo. Make it known that our place in this state is not negotiable and that our time, money and energy are not to be gambled with.