For universities statewide, Amendment 11 has become the hot-button topic of this election cycle.
The Florida Board of Education, which covers all levels of education throughout the state, will dissolve in January 2003. The effect this will have on state universities is that local boards of trustees will have increased power over operations and faculty.
Amendment 11 seeks to establish a statewide Board of Governors that will be responsible for the operation of the entire university system in Florida. The 17-member board would be a step above the local boards of trustees.
The amendment also creates a provision in which each local board will continue to have 13 members. One faculty member and one student must sit on each board.
The proposed Board of Governors will create procedures for “selection and confirmation of board members.”
In 2001, the boards of trustees for the state universities were named after the Board of Regents, the body that formerly governed the state universities, was dissolved. The boards operated under the Board of Education.
If the amendment fails, the state will be without a Board of Governors or a Board of Education, and the powers of the local boards of trustees will most likely be greater.
The amendment, as it appears on the ballot, does not clearly state how Board of Governor members will be chosen. However, the full text does describe the process. The governor will choose 14 of the members. They will be confirmed by the state Senate, and serve staggered terms of seven years.
The other three members of the board will, if the amendment passes, be the president of the Florida Student Association, the chair of the advisory council of the faculty senates and the commissioner of education.
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Amendment 9 brings a proposal to improve Florida’s education system by reducing class sizes, hiring more teachers and building more schools. If passed, all public schools will be required to reduce the number of students per classroom by 2010.
The amendment states that the Legislature will be expected to pay the bill rather than local school districts.
However, the cost could be more than some expect. According to a report in The Miami Herald in October, it will cost more than $430 million in the first year to reduce class sizes in Miami-Dade County. And the total cost is estimated between $5 and $28 billion.
The amendment applies from pre-kindergarten to high school education, requiring that the maximum number of students per classroom differ for each grade level in public schools. For instance, pre-kindergarten through third grade, a maximum of 18 students will be allowed in the classroom.
While in grades nine through 12, no more than 25 students will be seated in a classroom by 2010.
Bill McBride said a tax charge of 50 cents per cigarette pack could help ease the cost of the amendment, while allocating more of the state’s general revenue to education.
Gov. Jeb Bush criticized McBride’s solution in the September debate, saying that the amendment is too costly for Florida. If it is passed, however, taxes do not need to be raised. Bush said that pulling in taxes applied to tobacco isn’t going to solve the problem but that money from general revenue could be used to build classrooms if the amendment is passes.
In order to meet the projected class sizes, schools would start reducing the number of students assigned to each teacher in the 2002/03 school year.
In the following fiscal year, if the amendment is passed, the state would be required to provide money in order to cover the expense of reducing the number of students in each class by at least two until class sizes meet the requirements of the amendment.
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