Across Florida
What's happening on other political blogs?

state universities’

Democrats putting education “front and center” in legislative campaigns

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012 by John Kennedy

Florida’s ruling Republicans are undermining their own pledge to boost the state’s economy by shifting millions of dollars away from public education, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and state Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said Wednesday.

Flanked by a dozen university students, Graham and Smith expanded on what has become a steady campaign theme this fall for Democrats in state House and Senate races across the state.

Graham, who also served as Florida governor from 1979-87, said Republicans have come close to reversing the state’s longstanding commitment to universities, which in his time had taxpayers covering 75 percent of college costs and students paying 25 percent.

“We can’t continue down this course if we aspire to be a state where young people want to plant their personal flags,” Graham said.

The Legislature cut university spending $300 million this year, while restoring $1 billion to public schools which had shouldered a $1.3 billion reduction in 2011.  Tuition was increased between 9 percent and 15 percent at the state’s 11 universities, in the latest round of several years of steep hikes.

Florida Republicans have defended the actions. Lawmakers have had to deal with multibillion dollar budget shortfalls since the recession hardened in 2007.  With analysts predicting a slight surplus next year, Republican Gov. Rick Scott has lately joined the chorus calling for more dollars for schools.

But with the federal government also reducing financial aid programs, Graham concluded, “At all levels, higher education is under assault.”

Graham and Smith said the budget cuts, combined with a slow economy, are making it increasingly difficult for Florida students to attend state universities. Meanwhile, students attending Wednesday’s news conference with the Democratic leaders also told of struggling to enroll in the classes they needed, or being forced to attend school for an additional academic year because of budget cuts.

“We have demonstrably devalued education in this state,” Smith said.

Smith said Democratic candidates in legislative races have made the difficulties families face with education a central part of their campaign pitch.

“In almost every one of our House races and in the Senate races we are involved in, you’re hearing about education again,” Smith said. “It is front and center, because families in Florida, when they sit down at the breakfast table, are worried about not only jobs for themselves, but jobs for their children and grandchildren.”

While Graham decried rising student costs, he is expected to be in attendance Thursday at the Florida Supreme Court for a case he started and which critics say could spur tuition rates even higher. Graham is the lead party in a 2007 lawsuit over whether the State University System Board of Governors — or the Legislature — is empowered to set tuition.

Lower courts have ruled against Graham, whose side says a 2002 constitutional amendment makes it clear that it is solely the board’s responsibility to set tuition rates.

Under current law, the Legislature has authority to set tuition increases, and universities can add an additional increase so long as the total tuition increase year-over-year does not exceed 15 percent.

 

Will free market economics convince Gov. Scott to raise tuition?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012 by Dara Kam

House Speaker Dean Cannon used a free-market argument will persuade Gov. Rick Scott to sign off on a proposal allowing the University of Florida and Florida State University to charge higher tuitions than the state’s nine other public universities.

Scott said he does not want a tuition hike for university students and their parents, but Cannon said he hopes to get Scott on board with the proposal already agreed to by House and Senate leaders.

“I think it’s important to note that there’s a big difference between the cost of gasoline or the cost of your utility bill where you’re actually paying for something and then you get a degree for it which enables you to make money,” Cannon told reporters this evening.

He said it’s important to draw a distinction between the state’s universities because “the value of a degree from FSU is probably different in terms of real earning capacity than the value of a degree from New College,” and launched into a free-market idea businessman Scott might like.

“Market rates on tuition, at least for our top-tier universities, is a good idea,” Cannon said. “The governor, I hope, would be supportive of the notion of letting the market drive the tuition at least at our premier universities and avoiding government price controls and pricing unlike products the same.”

Cannon would not weigh in on whether a controversial separation of the University of South Florida Polytechnic from the University of South Florida, pushed by Senate budget chief JD Alexander, was a good idea.

“I don’t want the debate over USF/Poly or any position I may take on it to distract from the greater goal of driving a discussion about better overall system governance. We’ll sort of cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.

Earlier today, Scott said he does not believe the state is ready for a twelfth university.

“I’m being very cautious about trying to add liabilities to the state. So can we afford a twelfth university? I want to make sure we can afford it,” Scott said, adding he is concerned about accreditation for the university.

Florida political tweeters
Video: Politics stories
Categories
Archives