State Colleges Could Get Spot In Constitution

By on January 27, 2018 in News Service of Florida

Florida – The Florida college system would remain under the State Board of Education in a proposal approved Friday by a panel of the Constitution Revision Commission.

The commission’s Education Committee approved a measure (Proposal 83), sponsored by Commissioner Nicole Washington of Miami Beach, that would put the existing governance system for the 28 state and community colleges into the state Constitution.

Washington, who is a member of the board of trustees at Florida A&M University, said the proposal would give colleges equal footing with the kindergarten-through-high-school system and the state university system, which already are included in the Constitution.

“The intent of this proposal is to recognize the Florida college system and their mission,” Washington said.

She also said it is a recognition of the system’s impact in higher education, noting its enrollment of some 800,000 students, its role in sending students to state universities through the “two-plus-two” program and its degree and certificate programs aimed at spurring economic development.

Malou Harrison, president of two campuses at Miami Dade College, spoke in support of the measure.

“Establishing our Florida college system as a critical segment in the Constitution is important, as is solidifying the current governance structure,” Harrison said.

Michael Brawer, head of the Association of Florida Colleges, said the 28 college presidents support placing the college system into the Constitution alongside public schools and universities, while also recognizing the “local control and governance” that exists with the current system.

However, the proposal is at odds with a bill (SB 540) that will be taken up Wednesday by the Senate.

The legislation, sponsored by Senate Education Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, would place the colleges under a new 13-member statewide board. The colleges were previously under a separate board until 2003, when the system was moved under the State Board of Education, which also oversees public schools.

Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican and member of the Constitution Revision Commission, voted against Washington’s proposal and a measure (Proposal 25), sponsored by Commissioner Sherry Plymale of Palm City, that would have put the college system into the Constitution but would have had a separate governance board, like in the Senate bill.

“I think the discussion should take place in the Legislature, and we should make that determination there,” Sprowls said.

The Education Committee rejected Plymale’s proposal.

Washington’s proposal now heads to the full commission, which must approve any amendments before they are placed on the 2018 general election ballot. Constitutional amendments ultimately require support from 60 percent of voters before they can be enacted.

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