TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday named a former veteran Kansas House member and two attorneys to the board overseeing the state’s higher education system.
Brownback said during a news conference that former state Rep. Bill Feuerborn of Garnett, Joseph Bain of Goodland, and Zoe Forrester Newton of Sedan bring “a great deal of talent and experience” to the Board of Regents. Their appointments to terms running through June 2018 require confirmation by the state Senate.
The nine-member board oversees state universities, community colleges and technical colleges, and the state spends almost $2.6 billion annually on higher education, much of it financed with tuition. The state’s contribution has grown by $55 million, or 7 percent, over the past three years, to $794 million, but it’s still significantly short of its peak seven years ago.
“It’s going to be to these folks, as well, to figure out how do we make the most of the budgets we’ve put in?” Brownback told reporters. “So that you can raise the quality — because we’re always after doing that — and hold down the price.”
Some regents in recent years have linked annual increases in tuition to the Republican-dominated Legislature’s unwillingness to provide larger increases in state funding for general operations. But Brownback said lawmakers are willing to finance targeted initiatives, such as training more doctors and engineers.
“My mom was a teacher, and education was part of the fabric of my life growing up, and I strongly believe in the availability of a world-class education at a reasonable cost,” Newton said.
Newton is 47, and Bain, 34. Feuerborn, 66, served in the House from 1995 through 2012 and was a key player for fellow Democrats on budget issues.
State law says the board can’t have more than five members of the same political party. Newton is a Republican and Bain, unaffiliated.
They’re replacing three regents whose terms expired at the end of June and who were appointed by then-Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson in 2010. They are Mildred Edwards of Wichita, Tim Emert of Independence Ed McKechnie of Arcadia.
Edwards is executive director of the Kansas African-American Affairs Commission. Emert is a former Republican majority leader in the Kansas Senate and McKechnie, a former Democratic House member. Earlier this month, Emert publicly endorsed Brownback’s Democratic challenger, Paul Davis, in the governor’s race.