Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Foes Try to Amend Education Overhaul Critics Seek Board to Manage Universities

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Foes Try to Amend Education Overhaul Critics Seek Board to Manage Universities

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Humphrey, Times-Union staff writer

********** CORRECTION June 6, 2001

Opponents of Florida's education overhaul are hoping to place on the November 2002 ballot a constitutional amendment creating a board to manage the state's universities. Because of a reporter's error, an incorrect year for the planned initiative was included in a story on Page B-1 yesterday.

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Those who oppose the Republican-led overhaul of Florida's education system are still fighting the change, even as Gov. Jeb Bush prepares to appoint a new state Board of Education and trustee boards to manage each of the 11 state universities.

A group of politicians, educators and business leaders has formed "Education Excellence Initiative," which plans to file this week as a political action committee and begin the uphill task of building support for an amendment to Florida's Constitution. The proposed amendment, which would have to be approved by Florida voters, would create a board to manage Florida's state universities.

Under the new education system, which takes effect July 1, all levels of schooling will be managed by a seven-member Board of Education. Each university would also be governed by a 13-member panel of trustees. But there would be no coordinating board for the 11 public universities, which have been run by the state Board of Regents since 1965.

Without such a board, critics fear rampant politicizing of the system, infighting among the universities, needless duplication and -- as a result -- diminished quality.

Already, there have been signs, according to Robin Gibson, a Lake Wales lawyer who sits on the steering committee of Education Excellence Initiative.

"The university system is going to be run according to a political agenda," Gibson said, citing some recent high-profile cases. "The speaker of the House got a new medical school. The senate president got a 650-student university in his district. The Hispanic delegation got a new law school. The black caucus got a new law school. . . . The question becomes, how much more of this do you want?"

The group considered a legal challenge against the overhaul, deciding that the changes are "unconstitutional and ripe for a challenge. …

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