Florida comprehensive college reform bill 'not ready for prime time,' key senator says
A comprehensive plan by Florida Senate leaders to refocus the state college system back to its original purpose of offering two-year degrees and of being a pipeline for the State University System stumbled through its first hearing this week.
The proposal (SB 374) is among a package of bills that are a priority for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, in his push to improve Florida's higher education system this year.
Senate leaders have dubbed SB 374 the "College Competitiveness Act," which Sen. Bill Galvano - a Bradenton Republican and top lieutenant of Negron in executing the higher ed reforms - says will "provide independence and greater opportunity for advocacy and oversight" of Florida's 28 state colleges.
But some aspects of the bill arguably would have the opposite effect - namely by reining in the colleges' freedom to add four-year degree programs and, in some cases, requiring legislative action to approve new four-year degrees.
Other reforms in the 254-page proposal include removing the state colleges from the purview of the State Board of Education - which oversees public education in grades K-20 - and, instead, putting the colleges under a new State Board of Community Colleges.
The measure advanced out of the Senate Education Committee on a unanimous vote Monday, with some senators - although vocally disapproving of the plan - resisting a "no" vote mainly as a show of good faith to Senate leadership.
"I just think it's not ready for prime-time," said Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican and former Senate president who asked a series of probing questions critical of the proposal. "I'm going to support it today out of deference to my Senate president, Sen. Galvano and Sen. [Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, the bill sponsor], but this bill has got big problems."