Wichita State to lose $1.5 million from education budget cuts

Wichita State stands to lose $1.5 million in funding from the state after Gov. Sam Brownback announced cuts to K-12 and higher education.

Brownback announced Thursday that he plans to cut nearly $45 million from public schools and higher education in March. The governor also suggested lawmakers could head off reductions by withholding $54 million from public schools.

“The dramatic increase in state education funding that has occurred over the last four years is unsustainable,” Brownback said in a statement.

Also Thursday, the governor said a high school’s purchase of a new grand piano, which cost the school $47,000, shows how Kansas’ plan for funding public education is flawed. In a statement, Brownback said the money spent on the piano should have been used to hire another teacher and reduce class sizes.

In a statement released after the governor’s announcements, university president John Bardo acknowledged that the cuts will have an impact on WSU.

 “The budget decision announced today is unfortunate and could slow us down a bit, but we are moving forward with our plans to support the people of Kansas,” Bardo said in the statement.

Student body president Matthew Conklin said his first thoughts on hearing about the pending cuts were disappointment, especially after, he said, the governor publicly remarked that he planned to keep education funding steady. Conklin is also concerned about how the cuts will affect students.

“Representing students and their interests, I think it’s important that they realize that that $1.5 million could be going to tuition, to fund buildings, professor salaries or research,” Conklin said. “Instead, the lost dollars might translate to higher tuition rates, higher costs for students. That’s very unfortunate.”

Conklin’s thoughts about tuition possibly increasing due to these funding cuts came from a discussion he had during the last student government administration. At the time, Conklin was treasurer for SGA, and met with the then-president, vice president and others to discuss tuition increases.

“We were talking about a certain percentage of our increase in tuition was a direct result of the decrease of the higher education funding from the state,” Conklin said. “So, students need to keep that in mind if tuition rates increase again.”

Kansas public schools will also see a significant cut in education funding from the state. Conklin said he feels sorry for K-12 schools, because those schools did not anticipate the cuts, which are coming in the middle of the fiscal year.

“How are they going to come up with that hole in their budget when they’re in the middle of their fiscal year?” Conklin said. “I think that’s very unfortunate.”

Conklin said the funding for students in K-12 schools is of vital importance as they prepare for higher education.

“We need that funding for kids in K-12 to give them adequate resources and education to prepare them to go on into higher education,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s being sliced across the board like that.”