KPERS — A commission created to recommend potential changes to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System has approved, narrowly, a plan that will keep most current employees in the existing defined-benefits plan while shifting new hires into a 401(k)-style defined-contribution plan. Of course, nothing will change until the Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback give it their stamp of approval, but list us among those who favor a shift to the 401(k) option.
A recommendation to convert the state-employee retirement system to a 401(k) plan seems like a reasonable move, but state officials need to realize that the pensions currently guaranteed by the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System are a significant benefit for state employees. If the state is going to make its retirement plan more like those offered by private businesses, it also may have to provide salaries and other benefits that make state jobs more competitive with those offered in the private sector.
School funding — Gov. Sam Brownback should be applauded for taking on a long-overdue revision of the school-funding formula and for a guiding principle that once all schools are adequately funded, local populations should have the right to increase their own taxes to pay for education that goes beyond adequate. The challenge is ensuring Kansas education doesn’t simply limp by, but thrives in the years to come — and does so in an equitable fashion. Clearly, the time is right to address the funding formula.
Kansas City Star
Flentje — The news that Michael Shonrock accepted the position as Emporia State University’s 16th president will bring an end to the work of Edward Flentje, who is serving as interim president. Flentje served the university and community well as an interim. During his short tenure he had to work through positive, negative and tragic news events. He approached them with humility and honesty, which was a good fit for our community. Flentje would have made a good president, but he is looking forward to returning to Wichita and going back to work as a professor at Wichita State University.
Farm-labor rule — Young people working on farms are at risk from machinery and hard-to-manage animals. But the U.S. Department of Labor should not adopt safety standards for those young people without considering the impact on family farms. As drafted, a long list of standards for farm workers under 16 would exempt family members working on their family’s farm. But the exemption would not apply for family partnerships and corporations, which own 98 percent of the approximately 2 million farms and ranches in the country.
Winfield Daily Courier
Dress code — The Wichita school district is proposing dress guidelines — for its school administrators. It’s a new approach to demonstrating to faculty, staff, students and the community the importance of professional dress. Hutchinson has no such code for its administrators. It stipulates that all of its employees dress professionally and appropriately. It sounds like that should be enough. Then again, professional dress isn’t always the rule in school hallways, so maybe it is always best to put this in writing.