The Presidents of Florida’s 28 state colleges have unified in support of a Constitution Revision Commission proposal that recognizes the college system in the constitution. College system stakeholders feel the move is long overdue.
The state’s K-12 education and university systems have had their place in Florida’s constitution for some time now – but its college system, serving more than 800,000 students, has waited for the same consideration. Jim Murdaugh, president of Tallahassee Community College, says the CRC proposal would define the college system’s governance structure in a way similar to that of universities.
“What it does is, it codifies our governance structure in the Florida constitutions – just as has been done for the university system, for example,” Murdaugh said.
The CRC has considered two similar proposals that address the college system. But Commissioner Nicole Washington’s proposal is currently getting fine-tuned by the style and drafting committee, a step away from being on the ballot in November. Washington’s measure would have a local board of trustees oversee each individual college, and the State Board of Education would continue oversight of the system as a whole.
To Murdaugh, a local board of trustees made up of residents of the college’s service area means increased ability to cater to local needs.
“We report to the State Board of Education just as the 67 school districts do,” Murdaugh said. “That structure is not designed to bring us together to ensure what I would call more uniformity across the system – it’s to make sure that we address our local needs based upon the trustees who govern us. Who represent the counties that we draw our student populations from, largely.”
The move will leave differences between the governance structures of the college and university systems, Murdaugh says.
“The structure of the universities is to have a board of trustees, but then there is an oversight board – the board of governors that meets and brings all the universities together form around the state to address their collective impact at the state level,” Murdaugh said.
Ava Parker is the president of Palm Beach State College. Like Murdaugh, she is a member of the Florida College System Council of Presidents. In a recent editorial in the South Florida’s Sun Sentinel, Parker backed Nicole Washington’s proposal, saying it would help colleges respond to growing workforce needs.
Commissioner Washington’s proposal defines the college system’s purpose as creating clear pathways to baccalaureate degrees, and specifies it is intended to respond to workforce needs in the region.