Kelly urges Education Council to provide bold ideas

Gov. Laura Kelly on Thursday urged leaders from across the state to propose bold recommendations in helping align education and economic needs.

“I encourage you to work toward bold innovations,” Kelly said in a recorded message to the Governor’s Council on Education, which was meeting at Wichita State University.

Kelly also affirmed her position that improved access to early childhood learning is key to improving opportunities. “I believe early childhood development is essential to put every Kansan on the path to success,” Kelly said.

Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers, a former Wichita USD 259 board member, attended the daylong meeting, and gave the council a brief report of his statewide rural listening tour. Rogers said many rural Kansans have told him they feel overlooked by government. He said Kansas needs to work on developing rural housing, maintaining hospitals and growing tourism and agri-business. He also spoke of the importance of local schools to help rural areas thrive.

Wichita State University Interim President Andy Tompkins and Provost Richard Muma gave presentations on ways the university is dealing with three challenging trends — the percentage of state funding assistance to regents universities has decreased; the number of high school graduates in Kansas has remained relatively flat and the number of foreign students, who pay higher tuition, has drastically decreased.

The school has stepped up its efforts to recruit students from out of state. WSU offers the lower in-state tuition to students from targeted counties along the Interstate 35 and Interstate 70 corridors in Colorado Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and other states. That has resulted in more than a 30 percent increase in enrollment from those counties in each of the last two years. WSU has also moved to increase research dollars coming to the school, increasing from approximately $100 million in 2017 to about $130 million last year.

Provost Muma said the changes in higher education have been rapid in the past several years. The school has added 14 new degree and certificate programs in the past few years. WSU has approximately 15,780 students — nearly half are first generation, underserved minority and low income students.

Terrell Davis, executive director of public affairs for Wichita USD 259; Shirley LeFever, dean of WSU’s College of Applied Studies and Monica Stewart, executive director of strategic innovations for the National Center for Aviation Training also talked to the council on programs in place to help students with their future careers, including an extremely popular program to train para-professionals to become teachers.

The Education Council is focused on improving schools, enhancing workforce development and stimulating economic growth. The Council is co-chaired by retired Kansas City USD 500 Superintendent Dr. Cynthia Lane and Dodge City USD 443 Superintendent Dr. Fred Dierksen.

KASB Executive Director Dr. John Heim, KASB past presidents Patrick Woods of the Topeka USD 501 board and Frank Henderson of the Seaman USD 345 board serve on the Council.

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