- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Salina Journal, July 20

Brownback works to pay off campaign debt

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback probably doesn’t lose too much sleep about his lingering campaign debt. Surely he can always go to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, if not his own personal fortune, to write off about $255,000 owed from the campaign.

The deficit remains more than six months after his re-election, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported, and Brownback is personally working the phones to raise post-election cash.

It isn’t all that surprising or unusual that a campaign would have a post-election debt. Brownback faced a tougher-than-usual re-election fight against Democrat and former State Rep. Paul Davis. Brownback isn’t the first to accrue some debt to get across the finish line.

But he might be having a tougher time fundraising post-election given his seemingly greater unpopularity. He was forced to twist the arms of legislators this past session for a massive sales and tobacco tax increase to cover the revenue loss from his failed income tax cuts. And he continues to alienate public educators, civil servants and those who depend on social services.

But fortunately Brownback and Colyer have deep personal pockets. In fact, it is to them that the campaign owes the debt - $200,000 to Brownback and $100,000 to Colyer, with just $45,000 cash on hand.

Surely these underwriters will understand firsthand what it takes to get elected when a candidate has a weak record of public service success. It takes money to buy television ads and mailers to manipulate perception of that record and to uncover and take advantage of some long-ago indiscretion of the opposing candidate.

If not ultimately forgiven by Brownback and Colyer themselves, the loans could get covered by donors still willing to curry favor with a governor having three legislative sessions remaining in his final term. And those who have benefited from the Brownback economic agenda are deep-pocketed, too.

The campaign drew attention when Colyer made a series of three loans of $500,000 each to the campaign. Two were quickly repaid, suggesting the loans weren’t made to cover immediate campaign expenses so much as to bolster the Brownback campaign’s coffers during the reporting period.

That’s apparently not illegal, as a federal grand jury that looked into the loans declined to pursue charges. That kind of activity just means the public needs to pay more attention and not put much stock into measuring where a candidate is in the election horse race by how much he has raised, not when a good chunk of that figure is from moneys lent by the candidates themselves.

Maybe, instead, the public should be looking at what the campaign balance sheet looks like after the election.

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Hutchinson News, July 17

Hutch zoo’s rehabilitation center provides much-needed service

When Mother Nature or man proves to be cruel to wildlife by causing injuries or when young are orphaned, there’s an answer at the Hutchinson Zoo’s Cargill Wildcare Center, which provides a sanctuary for small animals and birds to be nursed back to health and released back into the wild.

The center has one full-time employee, Shanay Chambers, and six volunteer part-timers. It is the only such facility of its kind in the area. It is not open to the public. Chambers and the volunteers provide basic care to the wildlife by providing food, fluids, injections and splints.

“We don’t do it for the money, that’s for sure,” Chambers said. “We do it because we love it.”

Animals and birds from across the region are brought to the facility. The wildlife is kept away from the zoo animals to prevent spread of disease. When wildlife arrives, it is first quarantined. Some animals, such as white-tailed deer, are not accepted because of that disease threat.

When raccoons, skunks or deer are brought to the facility, Chambers refers the rescuers to Abby Wisdom Wilson, an independent wildlife rehabilitator near Cheney. The center also educates people on when to leave wildlife alone, which is usually the best choice, as a public service.

The most common wildlife brought to the center this year is nestling and fledgling songbirds, with the most common mammals being rabbits and squirrels. At least 75 percent of those brought in have suffered anthropogenic injuries caused by humans, which includes car accidents, hunting/shooting accidents and mowing accidents. Most common among injuries are wing injuries or fractures caused by being blown around in a storm or attacks by predators.

Chambers, who has a degree in environmental biology from Wichita State University, and the volunteers do the best they can to nurse the wildlife back to health for a quick return to the wild.

“I feel like this job is pretty important,” she said.

She’s right, especially

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Topeka Capital-Journal, July 19

A fraternity house beyond repair

The Kappa Sigma fraternity house on the Washburn University campus is no more, at least it won’t be when the current demolition project is finished.

Kappa Sigma members and alumni bid the house a sad farewell last Monday before demolition began. Their sadness was understandable. The building played a role in creating fond memories of their time at the university and in the house, which had graced the campus since 1929.

Most understood that the building’s demise was inevitable and had been for several years. One former resident expressed regret, however, that the house was being demolished now to make room for a parking lot.

One reader of CJOnline.com contended the building was being destroyed because university officials cared more about making money than they did about a piece of history.

The former resident’s angst is understandable, especially as he had helped make some repairs to the structure more than a decade ago. The CJOnline reader’s comment - as well as those of a few other readers - was out of line.

Yes, Washburn University officials plan to build a parking lot on the area where the house stood for more than 80 years. The parking lot will serve a new $30 million residence hall. The bonds generating money for the construction are to be retired with revenue generated by room and board payments.

But the Kappa Sigma building had outlived its usefulness. If university officials think a parking lot is the best use for the property now, sobeit. They are taking down an uninhabitable building and turning the land to a good use. It is a good decision.

Washburn University acquired the Kappa Sigma and Phi Delta Theta houses about 15 years ago and informed both fraternities renovations were needed to keep the buildings habitable. One fraternity found a donor to fund most of the needed renovations. Kappa Sigma could not. That sealed the building’s fate, and it hasn’t been used for years. Regardless of the property’s future use, demolition was inevitable.

And parking lots are important on college campuses.

The new residence hall isn’t the only construction project on Washburn University’s campus, and others are planned. The university over the past few decades has invested a lot of money into upgrading facilities and building new ones - in the area of sports, classrooms and residence facilities. Enhancing the university’s educational mission in an environment pleasing to students and faculty keeps the school relevant, and provides the opportunity to increase its relevance.

The new residence hall, and a parking lot for the students who will live there, are important to the university’s mission.

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Manhattan Mercury, July 15

Teacher licensing must still matter. Yet occasional exemptions can be justified

The Kansas Board of Education’s decision Tuesday to allow six school districts to bypass teacher licensure requirements in certain cases is an imperfect solution to what will probably be a growing problem. There is, after all, more to teaching than standing in front of students and reciting facts in the hope that the knowledge sinks in.

Skepticism is understandable given the contempt Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders have shown for the Kansas public school system in recent years. The districts that received the waiver - the Coalition of Innovative Districts - stem from the Kansas Legislature’s approval of a bill pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That’s a conservative group supported by large corporations that develops legislation for state governments.

Yet if one can set aside the politics and not wonder too long whether this is part of a scheme to further undermine Kansas public schools, waiving licensure requirements when it’s necessary seems reasonable.

KNEA opposes the move, and James Neff, a chemistry teacher in the Manhattan-Ogden School District, spoke against it at the KBOE meeting Tuesday. He pointed out that Kansas licensure rules call for formal academic training in teaching, and said such rules are essential to the integrity of the teaching profession.

“A subject matter specialist is just a subject matter specialist, but a teacher is something different,” he said.

He’s absolutely correct. The licensing regulations ought not be set aside lightly, and certainly not to set schools free from state laws.

But that doesn’t mean subject matter specialists with little or no former training in pedagogy can’t also be effective teachers who can manage classrooms.

Although the overwhelming majority of licensed Kansas teachers are effective educators, unlicensed individuals could well be superior to those who are going through the motions and ought to be doing something else.

It’s not as if the school districts given the authority to hire unlicensed teachers can simply find a carpenter to teach woodworking or other specialists for certain courses. A compromise that was essential for the board’s ultimate 6-4 approval requires the districts to get state board approval for any unlicensed teacher they hire.

Given recent reports about the exodus of Kansas teachers - some to better paying jobs and less hostile political environments in other states, and others to different careers or retirement - unlicensed individuals may out of necessity play increasing roles in Kansas classrooms.

That’s hardly ideal, and doesn’t bode well for Kansas students in the long term. But carefully selected unlicensed professionals are a better alternative than dropping course offerings because a licensed teacher can’t be found.

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