Sunday, May 20, 2018
Education

Universities fulfill second chunk of Alexander's data request

TAMPA — Florida's universities can produce lengthy essays on deadline.

They proved it Tuesday when they released almost 5,000 pages in response to a massive data request by state Sen. JD Alexander.

Alexander, R-Lake Wales, asked for the information after the Florida Board of Governors voted to delay the University of South Florida Polytechnic's quest to become independent. Alexander had pushed hard for an immediate split.

The information released Tuesday touches on everything from funding cuts to pay raises, executive travel to donations.

But the answers aren't as direct as the questions.

Take Alexander's request for a list of vendors who have donated money to Florida's 11 public universities. The schools provide lists of vendors, and they provide lists of donors. But they leave it up to Alexander to connect the dots, explaining that the business and fundraising operations of the universities are separate functions.

That separation is important "to avoid any appearance of impropriety," USF officials said in their response.

A few months ago, Alexander raised questions about a donation made to USF by the contractor of its new USF Poly campus in Lakeland. After winning a $46 million bid, Skanska made a $1 million donation to USF, to be paid over 10 years.

Both USF and Skanska defended the gift, telling the Tampa Bay Times that the campus project contract was the result of an in-depth public bidding process and the donation had nothing to do with it.

Whether that answer, and the slew of others, satisfies Alexander remains to be seen. Next week state university system chancellor Frank Brogan will present them all in person to the Senate budget committee, which Alexander chairs.

Alexander did not return a request for comment Tuesday.

Here is some other information the universities provided:

• Travel by university presidents varies widely, from more than $100,000 in trips by University of Florida president Bernie Machen to just a few thousand dollars' worth by the presidents of smaller schools, like New College and the University of North Florida. The funding sources vary, too, with some trips paid with state dollars but many big excursions paid with university foundation money or private donations.

• Recent state funding reductions led to considerable belt tightening by universities. The measures included suspended or canceled programs, consolidated operations on the campuses and among nearby institutions, and energy savings.

• Pay raises for university employees were minimal, averaging 2 to 3 percent last year. And they came after a year or two of flat pay.

• The state university system is seeking $3.99 billion in the next legislative session, a 14.8 percent increase over last year's appropriation. The two major reasons for the increase are $150 million requested for the board's New Florida initiative, which supports university projects aimed at economic development, and $283 million for a major gift matching program that hasn't been funded in several years.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3337.

Comments
At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

SANTA FE, Texas - They gathered here by the dozens Friday evening, wearing their school colors, T-shirts that said "Texas Tough," while huddling under the shade of a gaggle of pine trees, not 11 hours after the first shots were fired.They came to pra...
Published: 05/19/18
‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

Paige Curry tried to keep calm Friday morning as a gunman tore through her Santa Fe High School, eventually killing 10 people and injuring another 10. The 17-year-old watched as a girl nearby panicked. Curry, herself terrified, considered running out...
Published: 05/19/18
Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Before they could get away, we asked the top graduates at Pinellas County’s private schools to write a Twitter-length paragraph about what’s on their mind. We suggested they reflect on the past or the future, or talk about the people who helped them ...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

A Florida teacher was placed on administrative leave after school officials were told that he had students help him drown wild raccoons during class.A 14-second video published by CBS affiliate WKMG showed a group of students filling a tub of water u...
Published: 05/17/18
The US spends less on children than almost any other developed nation

The US spends less on children than almost any other developed nation

The federal government now spends less than it did about 30 years ago on some of the country’s poorest children, the result of cuts to federal welfare programs, according to a new research paper.In 1990, the government spent about $8,700 on every chi...
Published: 05/17/18
Two gifts on graduation day: white Crocs, and a lesson that ‘it can’t hurt to ask’

Two gifts on graduation day: white Crocs, and a lesson that ‘it can’t hurt to ask’

ST. PETERSBURG — Sarah Agee and her friends never pictured themselves wearing Crocs to their graduation. But the foam shoes were comfortable, offered better footing than heels, and now the Seminole High seniors had a story to tell.It all started a li...
Published: 05/16/18
Updated: 05/17/18
Romano: Instead of securing schools, lawmakers saved themselves

Romano: Instead of securing schools, lawmakers saved themselves

I said it two months ago, and it’s only become more obvious since then:The bipartisan school safety proposal passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor had more to do with protecting the rear ends of politicians than the lives of students.I...
Published: 05/16/18
High school graduations begin today across Tampa Bay

High school graduations begin today across Tampa Bay

Put on your gowns. Get in line. Cue Pomp and Circumstance .Tampa Bay’s high school graduation season begins in earnest today, with ceremonies for four schools planned at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Lakewood High will go first at 8:30 a.m., fol...
Published: 05/16/18