On Election Day, Florida voters will have the opportunity to vote on several constitutional amendments included on the general election ballot. Among the proposals is Amendment 7. This amendment, like several others voters will consider in just a few weeks, combines matters that share a common thread – in this case, higher education.
Most important to Florida’s colleges, Amendment 7 provides voters a unique opportunity to formally recognize our state and community colleges in the state constitution. The Florida College System is the only component of public education not currently included, even though the K-12 and the state university system were added some time ago. Passing Amendment 7 would officially recognize the role of the Florida College system as an important part of the pathway to higher education in the state.
Another crucial element guiding Florida’s colleges is the District Board of Trustees governance that provides oversight and direction specific to each college. Amendment 7’s emphasis on preserving local control is key to the success of the system. District Boards of Trustees ensure that colleges can remain responsive to the academic and workforce needs of their communities and are important to the continued relevance of the system as a whole. The professionals who comprise these boards know the college, the community-based businesses, and can guide their institution toward serving their needs. This, balanced with statewide oversight as it currently exists under the State Board of Education, will strengthen the seamless K-16 system as we know it.
As CEO of the Association of Florida Colleges, I am proud of the successes of our state and community colleges. I have seen firsthand how each individual college is committed to the communities they serve by working with the businesses and industries in their backyards to ensure they produce skilled professionals to meet local and regional workforce needs. Amendment 7’s passage would mean a great deal to the Florida College System and those almost 800,000 students across our state who attend our colleges as a pathway to a university as well as those who look to the colleges to acquire the skills they need to secure a specific job right in their own communities.
The Florida College System is consistently recognized as the top college system in the nation and solidifying these principles into Florida’s Constitution will promote its continued success and long-term vitality. Voting in favor of Amendment 7 will also provide education benefits to family members of first responders and military members killed in the line of duty and require state university boards of trustees to have a 2/3 majority to raise tuition and fees. Amendment 7 truly has the opportunity to help current and future students advance their careers and strengthen their futures. Taking this issue straight to voters is what’s right and I hope they will consider how a “yes” vote will positively impact the impact their state colleges and fellow Floridians.