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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

As Scott prepares to sign budget, Florida Poly's future remains unclear



With Scott just moments away from a ceremonial budget signing at a St. Johns County elementary school, the fate of Florida Polytechnic is still a mystery. And parties on both sides of the debate haven't slowed down their lobbying efforts.

Sen. Paula Dockery, a Republican from Lakeland who's been one of the harshest critics of the idea, just sent another letter to Scott urging him to keep his campaign promise that he would be "a good steward of the taxpayers’ dollars," and veto the bill. 

The bill, SB 1994, was pushed by Sen. JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, in his final legislative session. It short-cuts a plan laid out by state leaders last year to allow the school to split off on a more methodical path. Also in response to Alexander's pushing, the Florida Board of Governors laid out a number of benchmarks, including accreditation, a minimum enrollment, and a few buildings completed on its new campus, as independence conditions.

Though Scott says he'll sign the budget today with fewer vetoes than last year, when he cut $600 million in projects out of the budget, he does not have to act on SB 1994 today. Though money for the new university appears in the budget, Scott has until Saturday to decide whether to create the institution or not.

Whatever he does today won't necessarily tip his hand. Scott could potentially leave money in the budget for the institution but then later veto the bill. He could also remove Florida Polytech's money from the budget while signing the bill that allows the institution to exist. What could that all mean? Your guess is as good as any.

Dockery argues that vetoing the bill doesn't mean independence won't happen. It just won't happen right away, as the original Board of Governors plan spells out.

"A veto is a win/win," she wrote. "Please do the right thing."

Dockery's letter came days after the Florida Council of 100 made the same points.

Meanwhile, Scott's office just provided the Tampa Bay Times with copies of more than 1,000 emails that came into Scott's office on the issue. Support of SB 1994 overwhelmingly beat out opposition. 

However, a closer look at the content of the emails reveals a trend. Many of the letters are nearly identical -- a form letter of sorts -- coming into the Governor's office just minutes apart. And some of the email addresses seem to be from unusual characters. For example, both John Denver and Ron Jeremy waived in support.

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 12:46pm]


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