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Hornet Statehouse Buzz June 16, 2023

Wrap-up of the legislative session

Hello everyone! I wanted to thank you for your continued support and advocacy for Emporia State University. This is my final report on the legislative session, which just ended a few weeks ago.

Suffice it to say, the legislative session was a huge success for Emporia State. We received $10.6 million in specific appropriations and additional monies through requests put forth by the Kansas Board of Regents. That is one of the best one-year results in the university’s history no doubt. My goal is to make it better next year.

In January, we received a pleasant surprise when Governor Kelly’s budget included two budgetary requests for ESU. When we submitted our requests to the Board of Regents in the fall, we asked for $1.1 million for the Cybersecurity Center in the School of Business, $510,000 for the SMaRT 21 Math and Science teacher recruitment initiative, and $300,000 for ESU’s Prophet Aquatic Research + Outreach Center. Governor Kelly included the former two in her budget, and they both prevailed at the end of the session, passing out of the budget in HB 2184. No one can remember the last time ESU was in a governor’s budget recommendations.

The cybersecurity money will help us to fulfill the challenge Senator Jerry Moran made on campus in July 2022 when he announced a $1.5 million federal grant for a Cybersecurity Center at ESU. He enjoined us to secure money from the state, and we are happy to say that has happened. The SMaRT 21 project is a long goal of the School of Science + Math and The Teachers College to recruit and train new teachers in those two critical K-12 shortage areas. Both initiatives will further advance our strike zone programs in cybersecurity and in teaching. We thank the Governor for her faith in us to deliver on these programs.

The bigger amount of money secured by Emporia State this session was a request put forth by Speaker, and ESU alum, Dan Hawkins after a meeting with President Ken Hush in late January. This one-year request of $9 million will support FY 2024.

The decisions the strategy team made in the fall semester to implement the Board of Regents strategic management plan and to suspend programs and faculty at the end of this academic year do require some temporary expenditures. Our reinvestments in programs and hiring of new faculty, the administration of the appeals process, the cost of teach-outs of programs for students in suspended programs, and the additional issues arising from the enactment of the KBOR plan are some of the costs associated with this change, which we needed to address; we couldn’t turn to KBOR, but in our discussions with regents and with legislators, it became clear that the policy we implemented was the right way to go for turning around the university and investing in a more future focused ESU.

The discussions with legislators began as soon as our changes were announced in September 2022 and continued into the early weeks of the session. I told our story to legislators of both parties, some of whom knew quite a bit about what happened and others who knew very little. Most of the reactions I received were positive, and they were impressed with the changes and innovations we were pursuing at ESU. They argued that the rest of the universities should take this type of action.

When President Hush visited leaders in late January, we told our story once again and reiterated the costs involved, our shortfall, and what we would do to turn ESU around. Speaker Hawkins pledged his support as did other House and Senate leaders. In fact, the speaker initiated the $9 million investment plan I mentioned above to support our reinvestments in what we call the ESU Model Investment for Higher Education. This is not a bailout of our budget; rather, it is money to be used to fortify and realign our academic programs based on student interest and the needs of the Kansas workforce to make ESU sustainable for the long term. More work will need to be done. This will be a multi-year process, and we are addressing this on a go-forward basis.

Throughout March, the process worked in our favor, though it was a difficult road and took lots of work to get the $9 million through both budget committees and to a final vote in early April. After a meeting with the Governor’s legislative aide about how the money would be used, it made it through the budget intact. A banner year — a sum of $10.6 million specifically appropriated for Emporia State!

We also benefitted from the wider system requests. To help with student success and retention, the legislature appropriated $8.5 million for the National Institute of Student Success playbooks (KBOR contracted with NISS to promote retention of students and increase graduation rates and outcomes). Our portion is about $1 million in ongoing money. The system also received $16 million for need-based aid in the comprehensive grant, as well as $20 million for university facilities and $10 million for continued demolition of facilities to help right-size the campus footprint. ESU also received bonding authority to complete the construction of our new nursing and wellness facility in the center of campus.

The intricacies of some of the negotiating at the statehouse this session and the need to secure the money for ESU kept me a little more quiet than usual. Not wanting to jeopardize anything, I kept my mouth shut — a hard thing for me to do!

We always appreciate your continued advocacy and support for ESU! We are working hard to develop and implement our ESU Model and will need continued support from those who believe in the future of Emporia State.

With Hornet pride,

Greg Schneider
Executive Director of Government Relations
Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor of History