Women’s prison – A federal investigation finding “rampant” sexual misconduct and abuse of inmates at the Topeka Correctional Facility for women shamed the state. In response, officials now say they have taken the necessary actions to prevent the problems from recurring. The changes include additional staffing, increasing the number of security cameras from 250 to 350; providing training to staff, volunteers and inmates; and hiring a prison rape elimination act coordinator. State officials must continue to work with the Justice Department to ensure that sexual abuse and other problems do not recur. A civilized society expects its government to fairly and humanely punish lawbreakers. Anything less must not be tolerated.
Kansas City Star
Education cuts – USD 457 faced several million dollars in state funding cuts in recent years that erased jobs and school programs, and forced higher property taxes. And now, with massive tax cuts ahead in Kansas, resulting revenue declines could mean still more significant cuts to education, leaving school districts to again raise local property taxes and eliminate staff. No one wins in such a situation. While districts must do their utmost to educate youngsters in the most cost-efficient way possible, they stand little chance of making meaningful progress without adequate support from the state.
Garden City Telegram
Remedial work – Congratulations to Kansas higher education officials for taking a positive approach to legislation passed earlier this year that will bar state universities from using state tax dollars to pay for remedial courses. It’s easy to see why university officials would be put off by the micromanaging tone of the bill, which was pushed by House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson. However, according to Kansas Board of Regents president Andy Tompkins, passage of the bill has prompted university leaders to take a hard look at the experience of freshmen. Students who attend Kansas universities need to be prepared to do university work, and if universities are going to admit students who need remedial courses, they need to pay extra attention to making sure those students are successful.
Farm-bill blame – U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, sounds confused, to say the least, when he blames the presidential election and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack helping his wife’s congressional candidacy for the unlikelihood of a new farm bill getting out of Congress yet this year. That’s what he said at the Kansas State Fair. It was ironic because it is in Huelskamp’s chamber where the farm bill is stalled. A House bill emerged from committee, but it was despite his vote against it, and the opposition of Huelskamp and other renegade reps have kept it from coming to a full House vote. Over in the Senate, Kansas has lawmakers who are conservative but also constructive. Pat Roberts helped author a good farm bill in the Senate ag committee, a bipartisan measure that both he and Jerry Moran supported in the successful floor vote.
Governor’s dinners – Many of the Republican legislators interviewed earlier this year by Shawnee County prosecutors about their participation at private dinners hosted by Gov. Sam Brownback displayed an amazing ignorance of the Kansas Open Meetings Act and very selective, or short, memories. The phrase “I don’t recall” or some variation of it was used more than 450 times by the 53 legislators interviewed. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor recommended legislators become more familiar with KOMA through training. It can’t happen too soon.