There will be few surprises for close followers of the proposed DCCC merger in a report by KBOR on the legal hurdles facing the plan.
The Kansas Board of Regents will hear a report on the legal hurdles facing the proposed merging of Dodge City Community College and Fort Hays State University next week. If they read the similar report prepared by members of the DCCC faculty, there will be few surprises.
"From a purely legal perspective, staff believes that everything envisioned in the present proposal could be accomplished, but not without amendments to existing statutes, enactment of new statutes, and changes in Board policy and regulations," according to KBOR General Counsel Julene Miller.
As enunciated by DCCC President Don Woodburn, the new entity would be the first of its class, the KBOR staff agreed in its report. Previously, Wichita State University made the jump from municipal institution to state institution, tech schools have merged with community colleges and Kansas State absorbed Kansas Tech to create Kansas State-Salina, but so far, no community college has retained some of its allocated powers and responsibilities while maintaining others.
The report mirror's DCCC Professor Clark Coker's institutional existential quandary: what is a "community college?"
"Governmental entities such as Dodge City Community College are creatures of statute. … Such statutory creatures cannot agree to divest themselves from statutory duties and they cannot exercise powers, take on duties or create new legal identities that are not expressly authorized by, or necessarily implied from, the statutes creating and empowering them," Miller wrote.
"Thus, in order for the proposed structure to work, it appears that the community college will need to dissolve and one or more new statutes will need to be enacted to authorize the creation of a new taxing entity and provide for the specific powers, authorities, responsibilities, assets and liabilities of that new entity," similar to the laws create to enable Wichita University's transformation to Wichita State University.
As no statute explicitly for the dissolving of a community college exists, legal precedence states that it would be in the same manner it was created — by a vote of the public — though the Kansas Legislature could create new methods, the report states.
The Board of Regents is not entirely blind going into this process, however, as the attempted merging of Pratt Community College and FHSU 15 years ago led to the creation of a document of guiding principles by KBOR.
That policy contains 13 criteria any university and community college merging partners would need to address through "an appropriate feasibility study, with third party validation of the data, that will address each of the principles and guidelines above and assess the likelihood of success in meeting the stated goals with identified resources and timeliness."
In comparison to the multi-year process with Pratt, the DCCC and FHSU plan is on a fast track. Proponents of the plan hope for enabling legislation during the 2015 legislative session.