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Recent Kansas editorials

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The Topeka Capital-Journal, Aug. 4

With proper resources, great universities can get even better:

Gov. Sam Brownback appointed three new members to the Kansas Board of Regents on Friday, saying he thought they were the right people to help raise the profile of the state's public universities, community colleges and technical colleges.

"We aspire to be the best state in America and to do that you really need high-quality education, K-12 and higher," the governor said.

Brownback is right about that, and we hope he, veteran regents members and the new appointees are successful in raising the profile of the state's universities.

That said, it should be noted the state has an excellent education system. U.S. News and World Report has The University of Kansas rated 47th among the nation's top public universities. Kansas State University is ranked 68th. Given the number of public universities in the country, those rankings show KU and K-State aren't bottom-dwellers. This newspaper frequently reports on impressive advances both schools are making in areas as varied and business and agricultural to medicine and engineering.

Other public universities also have good reputations. Some garner national and international recognition.

Can they all do better and improve their standing among the nation's universities? Should they aspire to greater heights? Of course they should. An outstanding educational system is a great attraction for any state. Many college students, regardless of where they're from, tend to locate in the state where they graduated and continue to contribute to their adopted state in numerous ways. The higher the education profile, the greater the benefit to a state and its communities.

Goodland lawyer Joseph Bain was among Brownback's Friday appointees to the Kansas Board of Regents. He noted there is always room for improvement and said: "Some of that has to do with funding. Some of that has to do with accountability and transparency."

He is right on all counts.

It is often said that government programs can't be improved simply by throwing money at them. That's certainly true, but funding always must be adequate.

Raising the profile of the state's universities will require the proper mix of brick and mortar, human resources and funding.

As cohesive as Brownback and the Legislature have been on many issues in recent years, legislators haven't always gone along with the governor's funding request for K-12 programs or the public universities.

University officials, the Kansas Board of Regents, the governor and legislators all must be on the same page if they plan to raise the profile of our public universities. It is a worthy goal, and we wish them well.


Lawrence Journal-World, July 31

Protecting Kansans' personal information:

A recently released audit examining the security of state government computer systems demands immediate attention from Kansas officials.

The review, conducted by Legislative Post Audit, determined that the current level of computer security at state government agencies could leave Kansans' personal information vulnerable and that many Kansas agencies aren't complying with requirements to provide detailed information technology plans.

State Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, responded to the report by saying the Kansas Legislature should have "serious hearings" about the security of state computer systems. Even better would be for the state agencies already charged with ensuring proper computer security to act now rather than waiting for legislators to debate the issue.

The audit found that 75 state agencies are running 353 computer systems that contain sensitive data. That's everything from birth certificates to tax returns and other documents that include what should be tightly guarded Social Security numbers. It also determined that 17 of the 45 agencies that hold information considered "high risk" had not had an independent evaluation of their computer security in the past three years.

That lax attitude has been tolerated, the audit said, by the state's information technology officials, who "did not follow up on missing plans, and in one year did not send necessary templates and instructions to all agencies." Officials in the Office of Information Technology Services responded by making excuses about the difficulty of hiring enough computer security experts in Topeka, especially at the current wages, which range from $53,000 to $123,000 a year.

Furthermore, the state computer situation isn't new, according to Scott Frank, head of the Legislative Post-Audit. The state's computer security has been reviewed periodically for years, he said, and problems always are found. "I don't think there was a time when the state had a very solid, well-thought-out approach to security," he said.

There is no excuse for state agencies not ensuring the security of sensitive information on Kansas residents who are required to provide that information for various purposes. Kansans can choose not to submit a credit card number or other information to purchase something online, but they can't choose not to comply with state requirements to provide information to complete a voter registration, a tax return or other state business. Once that information is in a state computer system, it is the state's responsibility to make sure it is secure.

It may be impossible to make the state system 100 percent safe, but the recent audit confirms that Kansas officials are falling far short of doing the best they can to make sure sensitive personal information isn't compromised.

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