Gov. Sam Brownback announced the appointments of a former Democratic lawmaker and a pair of lawyers to the Kansas Board of Regents on Friday.
Brownback named former Rep. Bill Feuerborn – who represented Anderson, Franklin, Linn and Miami counties between 1995 and 2012 – to the board, which oversees the state’s universities.
The governor’s parents were among Feuerborn’s constituents during his time in the Legislature.
“He does a good job,” Brownback said.
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Feuerborn served on the Appropriations and Education Budget committees while in the House.
The governor also named Zoe Forrester Newton, a Republican and an attorney with a practice in Sedan. The city of Sedan is among her clients.
“I’m a farm kid and this is nowhere near where I thought I’d end up,” Newton said, noting that her mother was a teacher.
Newton attended Binghamton University in New York and Cornell Law School.
Brownback’s other appointee, Joseph Bain, is a lawyer from Goodland. He is a graduate of Fort Hays State University and the University of Kansas School of Law. Bain is an independent.
The three will serve four-year terms on the board, replacing outgoing board members Mildred Edwards, Tim Emert and Ed McKechnie. Emert had been a particularly vocal critic of tuition increases approved by the regents in recent years.
Kenny Wilk, chairman of the board, contended that Kansans still have affordable choices for higher education throughout the state.
“We have a wonderful menu of choices,” he said. “It’s very important to distinguish between a regional school and a research school. A research school is going to cost more. A KU, Kansas State, Wichita State is going to cost more.
“I would suggest that any Kansan that’s wanting to get a high-quality education has an access path that’s very affordable,” Wilk said. “There’s different missions, different purposes for each of those institutions.”
When asked whether he thought there was a burning issue in higher education that needed to be addressed, Feuerborn said that he would join the board without a specific agenda.
“I don’t have a bone to pick with what the regents have been doing,” he said. “I think you’ve got to come in and it’s a learning process.
“Until you get all the information, you shouldn’t come in with one item. Because once you fix that, what are you going to do?”
Brownback said that his administration has continued a push, started under his predecessor Gov. Mark Parkinson, to improve the rankings of the state’s universities.
“We seek to be the best state in America. To do that, you need high-quality higher education and you invest in that in a targeted way,” Brownback said.
He cited investment in engineering and medicine during his first term, and said he would like to see more investment in aviation and veterinary science in the next four years.