Community colleges, coincidences
Did we miss the news, or have we all failed to connect the dots between two big plans to give community colleges more power?
First, there's the legislation to turn community colleges into "state colleges" with the ability to grant more 4-year degrees. Then there's the proposed constitutional amendment, put on this fall's ballot by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, that would give counties the power to raise local sales taxes for community colleges.
"It's not a coincidence," said Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, told The Gradebook today. "It's well past time that we have done something like this to increase not just funding of community colleges, but to increase the opportunity for citizens and residents to improve themselves through community college education."
As a member of both the Legislature and the TBRC, Rouson, whose father was a long time community college vice president, was the only person who voted for both proposals. But he was hardly alone: The Senate passed the state college bill unanimously; the House passed it 97-10. (It's now awaiting Gov. Crist's signature.)
Meanwhile, the sales tax measure sailed through the TRBC 23-2.
Plenty of folks have talked up the state college idea (see St. Petersburg Times stories here and here), with one notable exception. But is it a coincidence that both it and the TBRC proposal were gaining steam at the same time tensions between the Legislature and the State University System reached a boiling point?
"I don't think these things are ever a coincidence," said Rep. Shelley Vana, D-Lantana. Vana voted no on the bill, saying she was worried about mission creep and cutting corners on education. And she said anti-university sentiment did play a role.
That feeling "hasn't been blatant," she said. "But all the years I've been in the House, it's, 'Oh well, the community colleges can do it better.' "
- Ron Matus, state education reporter