Letters to the Editor
We must work together and pull together as one MSU family
It’s no secret that an affordable college education gives students a leg up in life by providing the skills that many of them who come from Kentucky families need for better jobs and wages. However, affordable higher education in the Commonwealth could be quickly slipping away unless we all work and pull together as one family.
At Morehead State University, years of higher education underfunding, shifting demographics, declining enrollments and fewer returning students, coupled with the recent budget cut to all of Kentucky’s public colleges and universities have created a $9.7 million budget deficit for the coming fiscal year that must be addressed. Be assured, MSU is not in crisis; however, we are taking thoughtful, strategic measures to adjust to a changing environment to maintain and ensure long-term sustainability, affordability and quality programs.
There is no way tuition and fee increases alone can bridge that gap, nor should students and their families be asked to shoulder this burden entirely. The key to long-term resilience at MSU and future student success is shared sacrifice and increased efficiency so that we can ensure a quality college education remains within the reach of hard working Kentucky families.
MSU President Wayne Andrews and campus leaders have developed a deficit reduction plan approved by the Board of Regents that calls for short-term sacrifices by the entire MSU community. The plan is prudent and demonstrates good stewardship of taxpayer and student tuition dollars. It invests in student success in a way that benefits traditionally underserved populations by requiring us to streamline and focus our resources where they are most needed.
So what have we done? All employees, including administrators, have either taken five unpaid furlough days or will take a one-time salary cut in the coming year. We have eliminated 25 vacant positions and 23 employees were notified their positions would be eliminated at the end of their current contract period. No tenure/tenure track faculty were impacted by the eliminations. Fortunately, the number of impacted staff is lower than originally anticipated because some individuals were able to move into vacant positions for which they were qualified. I applaud the flexibility, patience, and cooperation of the staff during these challenging times. This has been a difficult process for everyone involved, and while we are a family, we cannot ask our students to shoulder costs we are unwilling to shoulder ourselves.
After consultation with the Faculty Senate, the Board of Regents has decided not to eliminate tenured or tenure-track faculty, choosing instead to rely on instructional efficiencies and increased retention efforts to plug the current year deficit that is apportioned to Academic Affairs. Quite simply we heard the faculty loud and clear that tenure is an important dynamic in retaining and attracting top professors. We affirm the importance of tenure and academic freedom in education as well as the Board’s commitment to maintaining MSU as a comprehensive regional university by offering a robust mix of quality, high demand academic programs, services and experiences that are essential in preparing students for 21st century jobs in a global society.
As mentioned, Academic Affairs has been asked to focus on instructional efficiencies, including effective schedule management, and increasing retention as strategies of choice before turning to other measures. Going forward, however, if these Academic Affairs initiatives do not meet the final objectives in 2016-2017, further budget reduction actions may become necessary. Specifically, should increased efficiencies and retention fail to mitigate the continuing gap of $1.4 million in Fiscal Year 2017-2018, the Board of Regents will remain true to the Faculty Senate preference not to eliminate tenured or tenure-track faculty, and will instead reduce faculty salaries on a recurring basis to fill the remaining budget gap. There can be no group that is protected from sharing the burden of college affordability.
President Andrews has announced his retirement at the end of the next academic year, and the Board of Regents has asked him to focus on two primary areas during this time: implement and manage the budget, and address enrollment and retention. He has the full and enthusiastic support of the Board to do so, and we have every expectation he will get the job done, just as he has throughout his tenure.
College affordability is absolutely critical to increasing access to higher education, and working Kentucky families have been responsible for far too much of the shifting burden of higher education costs over the last decade. The burden must be shared by all. By working together to provide Kentucky students a quality and affordable education, we are helping to ensure the future prosperity of the Commonwealth.
Paul C. Goodpaster
Chair, Board of Regents
Morehead State University
Letters to the Editor
Coal based economy faltering
Again the coal based economy is faltering, however, this time coal may not recover.
When my Paintsville High School (PHS) classmates and I were growing up in the 1950’s, the downtown was vibrant and shops were filled by merchants. Coal was the major source of employment; at least a type of employment that brings outside dollars into the region. In addition, many residents of Johnson County worked in Ohio and Indiana, returning home on weekends and spending their earnings in the shops in Paintsville. While the government entitlement checks arrived monthly in the Region, these payments were a much smaller part of the economy than they are today.
PHS was a top school then as it is today. The vast majority of my classmates went on to college. You were just expected to do that, by family and the entire town. The county schools, which were not consolidated then, did not rank nearly as high as PHS. Today, however, Johnson County consolidated school system is one of the highest ranked in the state. Clearly, public schools are not holding Paintsville and Johnson County back from economic success.
Everywhere I go across America tremendous growth has occurred, most all of it positive. However, it is disheartening to say the least, that economic growth in Eastern Kentucky has lagged behind the rest of the U.S. for the last 50 years! Over these years, a lot of effort has been made to bring outside industries to Eastern Kentucky. In the 1960’s, local businessmen led by Clarence Castle and John Mark Trimble, among others, helped create a business site on which American Standard eventually located. American Standard employed a substantial number of people until eventually succumbing to globalization pressures. To my knowledge, in the past 50 years, no other outside company of any size has moved into the area.
The majority of the students who graduate from local schools move out of the area. While most go on to further their education, very few return to their childhood home with their new-found skills. Most go on to find employment in established businesses, while others, like myself, become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses. Fortunately, a concerned and talented few return to the area and keep our fine schools near the top in educational accomplishment.
Recently there has been a lot of focus on reviving the local economy by focusing on tourism as well as bringing high speed internet services to the area. Groups like Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) and One East Kentucky are helping Eastern Kentucky look to the future rather than back at the past. This growth must be fueled by people with special talents and considerable passion for their individual missions. My specific interests are technical startups and revitalization of downtown Paintsville. My initial efforts will be to help bring a Maker’s Space to Paintsville. Maker’s Spaces are spreading throughout the U.S. and provide a low cost work space for hobbyists, inventors and tinkerers--some of whom will develop a product for manufacturing in Johnson County. For a low monthly fee, members will have common access to a workspace that has available workbenches, electronic kits, 3-D printers and other equipment that are generally too expensive to own personally. These shared spaces also provide for shared knowledge between the members. While this is my current priority, I am sure that others will have additional ideas and passions.
Most of the needed change will not happen in my lifetime. I graduated from PHS almost 60 years ago. Let’s join together to make sure that the 2016 graduates will not be writing a similar letter in 2075—or even 2026.
PHS Class of 1957
Letters to the Editor
I know and like our Representative, Hubie Collins, and I believe he is a good and fair man. He has responded to me and been supportive of things I have asked of him, but I must say he is not telling the whole story in his huge columns each week of late. Like his Democrat Party colleagues, he is unhappy that Kentucky actually has a functioning democracy where the opposing party can win and then move in the direction they promised the voters they would go. Isn’t that terrible! The real issue for Hubie and the Democrats in the House is that they are almost a minority now, with the Senate and the Governorship in the hands of their opponents and there is a real threat that the House will be taken over by the Republicans too. That is totally unacceptable to the party which has normally run all things in Ky. and especially in the House where they have held control for who knows how long. It was said only 25 years ago that they would hold a party caucus, decide what they would do and then come out and do it while laughing at any attempt by the Republicans to add amendments or put forward bills of their own (no compromise there). Yet Hubie is now crying in his soft drink over the fact that Governor Bevin has done what he promised to do without making compromises that would bust the budget and increase the amount of debt Ky. already has. Shame on that evil, uncompromising Gov. Bevin (Speaker Stumbo has reportedly even called Bevin a “Devil” and perhaps worse-he sounds like Trump).
Representative Collins failed to tell you about the unfunded obligations that he and his colleagues compromised their way into, including the huge amount owed to state pension funds that Gov. Bevin vowed to begin to pay on. He has done that in this budget with about a 10% down payment on that obligation which the Dems. Failed to take care of under the former governor. I think that is a figure of around $27-30 billion just for the teacher’s pension fund, and it is ironic that Hubie, who is a retired teacher and I assume is drawing his pension, is unconcerned about putting in the state contribution to his own teacher’s pension fund. Now you may call that selfless but I do not. Most Christians like Hubie (I include myself in that group) believe in paying their debts, but instead he backed Speaker Stumbo’s crazy plan to borrow $3 billion through the sale of bonds to pay into the pension fund to keep it funded and to make money off of that money by investing it. That is borrowing money to pay for borrowed money and hoping that the markets will provide a good return. If you or I did that, we would be considered foolish and irresponsible. I think it is foolish and irresponsible when politicians do such a thing with our money too. So please, Representative Collins, tell the whole story!
May 25, 2016, 07:41
Letters to the Editor
Commend PHS Baseball Team
I just wanted to take a moment to commend the Paintsville High School baseball team and coaches. This past Saturday while at Russell Independent, your baseball team was given the opportunity to participate in our local Challenger League game. The Challenger League is a special needs baseball club supported by our local Little League. On Saturday, the Challenger League was invited to play a game on the high school field before the face off between Paintsville and Russell.
The young men of your team served as “buddies” to some of these young people during the game, they interacted with them by giving high fives and dancing, and actively cheered them on during play. Your young men showed nothing but respect and compassion for these children. They are a class act.
Please let the students on your team know how much I appreciate them for participating in this with happy hearts.
Director of Special Education
Russell Independent Schools
Letters to the Editor
I’m still trying to find a picture of my grandfather, George W. Blair.
He was married to Matilta Catherine Blair, the daughter of Sam R. Blair and Mitilda Blair.
If you have any information, please call 606-789-4301.