Presidents Urge Bush to Go Slow on Regents

Article excerpt

The presidents of the 10 state universities met yesterday with legislative leaders and Gov. Jeb Bush in separate meetings to discuss their concerns over a proposal that would eliminate the Board of Regents and replace it with a "mega-board" of education.

Two bills would set up a seven-member board appointed by the governor to watch over all levels of education, from kindergarten through graduate school. Complementing that panel would be a commissioner of education also appointed by the governor and a nine-member board of trustees at each of the universities.

The university presidents and others are concerned about how quickly the proposals are moving through the Legislature, as both may be discussed on the floor of the House and Senate as early as next week.

"We need to ask the Legislature to listen to us and talk to us, and that can't be done in a half-hour or a hearing," Florida Atlantic University President Tony Catanese said before the meetings. "We haven't been part of this conversation and I think we should be part of this discussion."

During his meeting with the presidents, Bush said input from them and others in academia would be needed during the two-year transition period before the proposal took effect in January 2003.

Florida State University President Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte asked Bush to encourage the addition of a "sunset" provision in the law that would eliminate the Board of Regents on a set date in the future and convene a study commission to recommend a new structure.

"I don't think it would take an awful lot of time," D'Alemberte said. "Sunset is a much better way to ensure we take a hard look [at the Board of Regents]."

Bush said he did not think every "what-if question" was going to be answered in the legislation and most of those decisions would be made by the team in charge of the transition. …