Friday, June 28, 2013

Brownback appoints three to Kansas Board of Regents; vows to fight for restored funding to higher ed

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

Gov. Sam Brownback today appointed three new members to the Kansas Board of Regents and vowed to work to restore recent funding cuts to higher education.

Shane Bangerter, an attorney from Dodge City; Ann Brandau-Murguia, a commissioner for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan.; and Helen Van Etten, a Republican national committeewoman and audiologist with the Topeka school district were appointed to the regents.

They are replacing Christine Downey-Schmidt, a former state senator from Inman, Janie Perkins, a school district administrator and former mayor of Garden City, and Dan Lykins, a Topeka attorney.

The nine-member board oversees the six state universities, 19 community colleges and six technical colleges.

At a news conference at Kansas State University, Brownback described his appointees, who will require Senate confirmation to their four-year terms, as an "all-star team," whose members are passionate about the state.

Incoming Regents Chairman Fred Logan said to Brownback "You've knocked a home run."

The three come onto a board that has been highly critical of recent legislative cuts to higher education totaling $44 million over two years.

When asked about those cuts, the three appointees steered clear of criticizing legislators.

"It's not really our call what dollars we get, but the dollars that we do have, we need to be very good stewards of, and make sure that we're using our resources very wisely," said Bangerter.

Van Etten said higher education budgets are the result of a "balance act." Murguia praised both Brownback and the regents for advocating for higher education.

Brownback said he disapproved of the cuts, but he signed them into law. Today, he said, "I'm going to fight to get that restored."

Brownback said he has been meeting with legislators about higher education funding. "I think we have a good shot of getting stable funding for our four-year institutions."

In brief comments during the news conference, Bangerter, who is vice chair of the Dodge City community college board, said he wanted to make sure that higher education remained open, accessible and affordable.

Murguia agreed, noting the high poverty rate in her area, and Van Etten said her primary passion was education.

Murguia, whose commissioner district includes the Kansas University medical campus, recently was defeated in the race for mayor and CEO of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan.