Education politics in Florida

A recent Tampa Bay Times1 wonderful story on the politics of education in Florida somehow squeezed into a few column inches the various topics required: legislative arrogance, regional parochialism, the public interest in higher education, the jobs connections of legislators in higher ed, and the occasional twinges of regret (such as House Speaker Dean Cannon’s statement at the opening of this year’s session). We have politics in Florida higher ed, loads of it. Every time there is something weird that happens in my state’s colleges and communities, I am tempted to shout, “Stop! I have enough material for several college novels. You don’t need to supply me with any more!”2

This week’s notable entries:

  • An administrative legal hearing request by the Seminole County school board challenging the procedures of the state’s charter-school appeal board. This will probably end up in the courts if both the school board and state keep up their own arguments, and it will hinge on how broadly applicable is a state supreme court decision several years ago, a decision that struck down a state superboard as encroaching on the constitutional duties of county school boards. The bill in the legislature that creates a “parent trigger” on school turnarounds may trigger another legal conflict, with the basic question being the same: when can the legislature create mechanisms that override the constitutional powers of local boards?
  • Bills moving quickly through both houses that would carve out either half or all of the state’s school construction funds entirely for charter schools, which educate a small minority of schoolchildren in the state.
  • Budget-bill language in the state senate that suddenly appeared before the higher-ed appropriations subcommittee this afternoon, which would give the USF Polytechnic campus immediate independence as Florida Polytechnic University. A decade ago, voters approved the creation of a constitutional body governing the state’s universities; this is a pretty bold attempt by senators to carve out authority to create an entirely new university by legislative fiat, without the approval of the Board of Governors.
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Notes

  1. That new name still feels so wrong. []
  2. I also don’t have time to write novels, but I have enough material stocked up for a whole series and a plot for the first book. []

One response to “Education politics in Florida”

  1. Glen S. McGhee

    Welcome back, Sherman!

    I hope the conflict-of-interest provisions pass — we sure do need it! Scandals have badly tarnished the image of public servants in higher ed. We need a fire-wall to protect us from opportunistic bastards, one that will stop the revolving door between the campus and Tallahassee. Too often the latter is the dumping ground where we send failed college presidential candidates and administrators “retired” before their time.

    I wonder if the Florida legislature knows what they did, when at the direction of the FL Dept of Education, they repealed FAC 6A-14.063 (compare with BOG 3.006, which was not much better), the requirement that all of Florida’s community colleges must be accredited by a national, regional or programmatic agency that is recognized by the US Secretary of Education. Not only is this a clear demonstration of the useless of accreditation as an indicator of quality, but, as in the scandal at Edison State, shows how foolish it was to relax the need for appropriate accreditation at the state’s schools as a condition for the receipt of state funds.

    Another suggestion is to bring back the FETPIP degree/job placement data from the state’s datawarehouse from the Florida Education and Training Placement Information Program. I think they were ashamed at the poor results, afraid they would undermine the ramp-up in degree production when folks realized how lousy the ROI was.

    Thank you for keeping us informed.