Who’s In Charge Here?

May 16, 2012. University Press publishes revealing exposé on Florida Atlantic University’s Board of Trustees, “[H]alf the board members have bankruptcy filings, foreclosures, or other financial problems in their past.”
(Published May 15, 2012)


FAU Board of Trustees group photoThe Board of Trustees with President Mary Jane Saunders (center). Photo courtesy of FAU Media Relations.

Experience. Leadership. Management. Philanthropy. Awards.

These are the words FAU’s Board of Trustees members used to describe themselves when they applied to join the board.

Bankruptcy filings. Foreclosures. Tax warrants. Court orders to pay debts.

These are the words they neglected to mention.

As FAU’s highest-ranking leaders, the trustees make FAU’s biggest financial and academic decisions. Their actions affect the entire university community — students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni.

But a University Press investigation also found federal lawsuits, job performance complaints, a federal tax lien, and an eviction order in their past.

Read more at upressonline.com

FEA Frontline Report: Week of March 22

March 27, 2010. SB 6 passes Senate while House counterpart HB 7189 begins ascent, Assault on Florida Retirement System stems from legislators’ burning desire to balance budget without raising taxes.

(Received March 26, 2010).

Quote of the week:

“Every success in our public schools is credited to some program with a tortured acronym crafted in the halls of Tallahassee…while every failure is laid at the feet of our hard working teachers,” Senator Charlie Justice (D-St. Petersburg) in Floor debate before casting his vote against SB 6.

Week four of the 2010 legislative session

This is how Week Four started out:  “In a galaxy far, far away, a psychopathic emperor and his most trusted servant – a former Jedi Knight known as Darth Vader – are ruling a universe with fear. They have built a horrifying weapon known as the Death Star, a giant battle station capable of annihilating a world in less than a second. When the Death Star’s master plans are captured by the fledgling Rebel Alliance, Vader starts a pursuit of the ship carrying them… the Rebels must quickly find a way to eliminate the Death Star before it is too late!”

Ok, the Star Wars comparison might be a bit over the top… Jeb Bush (the brains behind SB 6) is not a psychopathic emperor and Sen. John Thrasher (RPOF Chair and sponsor of SB 6) is not Darth Vader— and SB 6 and HB 7189 are not the plans for a Death Star.  But we could have sworn FEA President Andy Ford and attorney Ron Meyer were a little like Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi wielding light sabers against a never-ending battalion of Storm Troopers… and FEA and the locals are looking a lot like the Rebel Alliance these days!

Next week will be a short week for the Legislature due to observance of religious holidays.  The Senate and the House will be in session on Wednesday and Thursday to pass the budget bills.  We’ll let you know how that goes in next week’s Frontline.

In this issue:

SB 6 passes Senate – starts House journey as HB 7189

SJR 2 Class Size passes Senate

Retirement bills starting to move

Member lobbyists visiting Tallahassee

SB 6 passes Senate – starts House journey as HB 7189

The venomous SB 6 sponsored by the chair of the Republican Party of Florida, Sen. John Thrasher (R-Jacksonville) went to the floor of the Senate this week for a full Senate vote.  The bill passed by a vote of 21 to 17.

Voting against the bill were Senators:

Aronberg (D-Greenacres), Bullard (D-Miami), Dean (R-Inverness), Dockery (R-Lakeland), Deutch (D-Delray Beach), Gelber (D-Miami Beach), Hill (D-Jacksonville), Jones (R-Seminole), Joyner (D-Tampa), Justice (D-St. Petersburg), Lawson (D-Tallahassee), Ring (D-Margate), Smith (D-Oakland Park), Siplin (D-Orlando), Sobel (D-Hollywood), Villalobos (R-Miami), Wilson (D-Miami) (Sen. Nan Rich was absent this week).

The House version – now filed as HB 7189 — was heard in the House Education PreK-12 committee on Thursday – passing by a vote of 9 to 6.  Republican Rep. Mike Weinstein (Jacksonville) was the lone Republican casting his vote against the bill with the Democrats.   The next stop for this bill has yet to be determined – it could go straight to a full vote of the House or it could be referred to a committee or two, or it could sit in limbo as a negotiating tool for the House to get something in return from the Senate.

SB 6 and HB 7189:

·       Eliminates due process and places all new teachers on annual contracts – these contracts may be non-renewed for any reason or no reason without recourse.

·       Permits non-renewal of a teaching certificate if a teacher cannot demonstrate student learning gains in 4 of the preceding 5 years.

·       Links learning gains —measured by a means yet to be determined and end of course exams that don’t yet exist— to teacher pay and recertification. Performance appraisals will be required to be based upon 50% student learning gains.

·       Prohibits recognition of years of service or advanced degrees in determining teacher salaries.

·       Ensures that the National Board Certified Teacher program will end in Florida by requiring individuals to be NBCT certified by July 1, 2010 and stipulates that bonuses will be paid if funding is available and if they are continuously employed in a public school.

·       Ends college grant and loan forgiveness programs for critical need areas.

·       Will lop off 5% of districts’ state funding to be held for performance pay, but first the funds will be used to develop the tests and processes to determine learning gains.  It amounts to about $900 – 950 million.  In essence, all teachers are paying for the cost of test development and performance awards which may become due under SB 6.

·       Shifts more and more control away from local school districts to the state, removes local decision-making by elected school boards or through collective bargaining on matters which relate to wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment.

·       Carves out any school district receiving $75 million or more in private grants so they are exempt from complying with the provisions of the bill until July 1, 201.6

In previous alerts and Frontlines, we did not adequately thank those who testified against SB 6/HB7189 – they all did a fantastic job! Our thanks to:

·       Ron Meyer for his impassioned testimony against the many ill-conceived premises of SB 6

·       Rich Templin from the Florida AFL-CIO speaking as a parent against the bill

·       Candace Gautney –  a 5th grade Science teacher from Ruediger Elementary School in Tallahassee

·       Melissa Olson – a 5th grade Writing teacher from Ruediger Elementary School

·       Jennifer Barnhill who teachers in Tallahassee at the PACE Alternative Center, Special Education/Emotionally Handicapped

·       Jason Flom from Cornerstone Learning Community

·       UTD President Karen Aronowitz and her many members who were part of UTD’s Target Tallahassee group

·       The many teachers and parents who turned in speaker cards to the committee from all around the state, but we were not able to get all their names

There is no way to adequately describe what they said and the intellectual and emotional impact their words had on that committee and those who sat in the audience!

SJR 2 Class Size passes Senate

The Senate passed SJR 2 – the 2010 legislative scheme to renege on class size reduction.  The House version HJR 7039 could be placed on the House session calendar at any time.   A 3/5 vote of the full body (all 40 members), or 24 votes was required for passage of SJR 2 to place the proposal on the November 2010 ballot. The final vote was 26 to 12; one Democrat voted for the Amendment – Senator Ring (D-Margate) with the Republicans… and one Republican – Sen. Alex Villalobos (R-Miami) voted against the bill with the Democrats.  Note: two Democrats were absent – Rich and Bullard.

Voting against SJR 2 were Senators:

Aronberg (D-Greenacres), Deutch (D-Delray Beach), Gelber (D-Miami Beach), Hill (D-Jacksonville), Joyner (D-Tampa), Justice (D-St. Petersburg), Lawson (D-Tallahassee), Smith (D-Oakland Park), Siplin (D-Orlando), Sobel (D-Hollywood), Villalobos (R-Miami), Wilson (D-Miami) (Sen. Nan Rich was absent this week).

The proposed amendment would keep class-size caps at the school average and then allow schools to add three extra students in the kindergarten to 3rd grade level and five extra students at grades four through 12.

Here’s what the bill could do to our classrooms:

·       In 2002-03 Pre-K-3 averaged 23 students. Now 16 students.  If the amendment passes classes may have 21 students.

·       In 2002-03 Grades 4–8 averaged 24 students. Now 19 students. If the amendment passes classes may have 27 students.

·       In 2002-03 Grades 8-12 averaged 24 students. Now 22 students. If the amendment passes classes may have 30 students.

That moves past the sought-after “flexibility” right on over to “gutting” the class-size provisions voters approved eight years ago.

Retirement bills starting to move

As the 2010 Legislative Session begins to hit its full pace, we’re starting to see only a few of the 29 filed retirement related bills – plus a few more committee bills – pick up traction.  The really bad bill HB 1319 has fallen by the wayside – although we have to be on the lookout for any of its provisions popping up in other bills through the amendment process.

These changes to FRS are prompted by the legislature’s burning desire to find more ways to balance the state budget without raising taxes.  As you well know, to balance the budget over the past 3 years they have been making huge cuts to state funding for education, public safety and human services … the one thing they haven’t touched is – you guessed it – the Florida Retirement System (FRS).  So get ready for another promise to be broken by our elected leaders.  Here’s a quick rundown on one moving through the process:

SB 2022 by Sen. J.D. Alexander (R-Lake Wales) was voted out of the Senate Ways & Means Committee Thursday.  FEA opposes this bill.  The bill changes the FRS from a non-contributory system to a contributory system by requiring each active member of the FRS to contribute 0.25% of gross salary to fund retirement benefits, effective January 1, 2011.

This bill impacts every active member of the FRS, the Senior Management Service Optional Annuity Program, the State University Optional Retirement Program and the Community College Optional Retirement Program.

Senators voting in opposition to the bill were: Gelber, Hill, Justice, Lawson, Lynn, Sobel, Wilson, and Deutch.

This contribution rate applies to both FRS defined benefit plan participants and investment plan participants.  Public testimony in opposition to the bill emphasized the points that the 0.25% contribution rate is merely the camel’s nose under the tent, and the employee contribution will, in effect, be a tax free loan to the state.

After Sen. Evelyn Lynn (R-Daytona Beach) asked the bill sponsor “what does this bill do for teachers?”  Alexander responded: “It requires them to make a 0.25% of gross pay towards their FRS retirement plan which means that if they make $45,000 per year, their annual contribution would total $112; and if they make $75,000 per year, their annual contribution would total $187.50.”

Senator Gaetz (R-Niceville) insisted that this was the only way to raise funds to make FRS actuarially sound.  Senator Alexander replied that he wished they didn’t have to make these tough decisions — but the Legislature has to balance the budget.

Member lobbyists visiting Tallahassee

Big thank you to all our visiting member lobbyists!  It was quite a week! If this was their first time in Tallahassee they certainly got a view of the legislative process they won’t soon forget!  Thanks to: Alachua, Brevard, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Lake, Leon, Martin, Orange, Pasco and Pinellas!

Questions? Call FEA Public Policy Advocacy at 850.224.2078

Thanks to all those who contributed to this report: Debi McDaniel, Pat Dix, Kevin Watson, and Ron Meyer.

Old Dixie, the “Devolution” of Florida’s University System, and Faculty Empowerment

February 17, 2010. “Educational reform” measures put forth by Florida’s Council of 100 business leaders and endorsed by GOP power broker Jeb Bush require scrutiny in historical context.

When considering the recent proposals comprising “Closing the Talent Gap,” put forth this month by Florida’s Council of 100,  it is important to keep in mind the dramatic political and structural changes to Florida’s State University System that have occurred over the past ten years. An oft-overlooked or forgotten chapter of Florida higher education’s recent past should be kept at the forefront of our thinking so that we may place the United Faculty of Florida and SUS’s plight in proper perspective. Central to this is  the quasi-privitization of the state’s public universities, termed “devolution,” that took place under Jeb Bush’s governorship and the successful move to destroy the statewide collective bargaining framework existing between the United Faculty of Florida and Florida’s Board of Regents.

Florida is part of the “Old South,” and one of the South’s legacies is a hostility toward independent worker organization that can be traced, without too much imagination, to the antebellum era. In the face of broad unionization throughout the US northeastern, mid-west, and western states during the 1940s and 1950s, American corporations sought to relocate to areas where there was less unionization and the deck was stacked against organizing through anti-labor laws. Like many of their counterparts in the Old Confederacy after passage of the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, Florida legislators moved to make it more difficult for workers to form unions through implementation of “right to work,” or “open shop” laws. At institutions where a majority of workers managed to vote union representation into existence, such laws allowed employees to opt out of paying dues even though they were members of the bargaining unit and received the protections and benefits of representation. UFF’s present organizing efforts are rooted in attempts to work within the framework of these very laws designed to undermine worker power and solidarity that a strong union can provide. Our organizing efforts are never-ending.

The UFF membership’s resolve to maintain its capacity as a statewide faculty union was dealt a heavy blow in the early 2000s. The Board of Regents that oversaw the SUS resisted a handful of powerful legislators’ attempts to build law schools at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University and Florida International University, and a medical school at Florida State University. Infuriated at the BOR’s recalcitrance, Governor Bush and an unusual coalition of Republican and Democratic state legislators moved to abolish the BOR and decentralize the SUS. The result was that each institution was placed under the direct oversight of a separate Board of Trustees.

This decentralization of power to BOTs was in close accord with the national Republican Party’s mission to privatize public institutions and run government “like a business.” The move was also an obvious attempt to weaken Florida’s teacher and faculty unions, which have been strong supporters of the Democratic Party. Bush made sure the eleven new BOTs were loaded with pro-business Republican donors, a practice reconfirmed in  BOG Chancellor and Bush associate Frank Brogan’s October 2009 BOT (re)appointments. These trustees, many of whom do not possess a full understanding of public higher education and would just as soon farm out university instruction to unqualified “private contractors” (adjuncts), are indifferent if not hostile toward public employees’ unions and collective bargaining.

The governance changes were used by the new BOTs as a basis to end bargaining that, since the UFF’s establishment in the mid-1970s, took place between UFF and the BOR. The BOTs argued unanimously that they were no longer bound by the statewide agreements. In response, with the aid of our parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, UFF mobilized and collected thousands of authorization cards from large majorities of faculty to recertify each UFF chapter as a bargaining agent with their respective BOTs. At eight universities faculty support for recertification of UFF was 65% or more and the BOTs at these institutions voluntarily recognized UFF. At FAU 70% of faculty members who were approached signed cards for recertification. University of West Florida and Florida State University held out for elections where UFF went on to win 90% or more of the ballots at each institution. The University of Florida’s BOT refused to recognize UFF until 2005, when an appellate court decided in the Union’s favor (Fiorito and Gallagher, 2006).

The radical move to decentralize was tempered in 2002 when Florida Governor Bob Graham’s voter amendment mandated a Board of Governors to administer SUS affairs. In contrast to the BOR, however, power exercised by the BOG takes a backseat to the BOTs. (The BOG Chancellorship being occupied by Bush’s former Lieutenant Governor is a curious new development that deserves close scrutiny.) In light of the above, the aforementioned package of “educational reform” proposals put forward by Florida’s Council of 100 and vigorously endorsed by Bush must also be looked at with major reservations, particularly by public educators. For example, the moves to strip K-12 teachers of tenure–or to otherwise make tenure meaningless–is a policy already being tested in the SUS. Further, the document’s buzzwords, such as “accountability” and “efficiency,” often translate to jeopardized academic freedom and an increasingly deteriorating educational experience for students.

This history is willfully forgotten by administrators and trustees at FAU and other state universities, many of whom calculated that UFF would be incapable of reviving itself after the SUS’s decentralization. The sentiment is reflected in remarks such as, “UFF ‘represents some faculty at [ABC] University.'” Keeping in mind this recent history, such an assertion should be recognized for what it is: an attempt to mislead those of us who’ve forgotten or are unaware of our institutional and historical positions in the struggle to preserve the profession’s autonomy. Without question faculty at FAU and throughout the SUS desire independent representation before their administrations and Boards of Trustees, even though the legacy of Old Dixie allows them the opportunity not to pay for such representation.

In solidarity,

James Tracy
UFF-FAU President

Fiorito, J. and V.C. Gallagher (2006) ‘Renewal in the United Faculty of Florida: class war in paradise?’ Labor Studies Journal Vol 31,No 3:39-64.

St. Petersburg Times Editorial: Getting Florida Back on Track

February 8, 2010

Florida lawmakers, facing the onerous task of building a 2010-11 state budget with the glimmer of modestly increasing revenue but fast-growing expenses, have largely dismissed Gov. Charlie Crist’s proposed spending plan. They’ve balked at its $69.2 billion size, roughly 4 percent higher than the current year, and lamented his use of creative financing. Yet Crist is right that the state should start investing again in improving education and protecting the environment — even if he is on shaky ground about paying for it. Read more at tampabay.com

Business Groups Propose Major Changes to Education

TALLAHASSEE — Backed by Gov. Charlie Crist and former Gov. Jeb Bush, powerful business groups called Thursday for major changes in Florida’s education system — including tougher high school graduation standards and a revamped class-size law.

The Florida Council of 100 and the Florida Chamber of Commerce released the 69-page report during a news conference in the governor’s office, saying that improving the education system is critical for economic development and attracting businesses. Read more at Daytona Beach News Journal Online.

Note: You can watch replays of the press conference on the Florida Channel.

January 13 message from SUS Chancellor Frank Brogan to BOG, BOTs, SUS Presidents

Dear Board of Governors, Board of Trustees Chairs and University Presidents:

On the morning of Thursday, January 14, the Governor will host a press conference at the capitol with participants from the Florida Council of 100, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Workforce Florida, Florida Department of Education and the Board of Governors, which will be represented by Governor McDevitt and me.

At the event, Governor Crist will offer his support for the “Closing the Talent Gap” report, which the Council of 100 is formally releasing that day. This report outlines recommendations for pre-k through 12 education, higher education and workforce development to ensure the state’s talent supply chain is responsive to future needs.

This is important for the State University System since the report includes a recommendation to launch the “New Florida” initiative, which positions the State University System as the key driver for building Florida’s knowledge economy by increasing degree production, research capacity, technology commercialization and more. The initiative calls for doubling state support for the SUS by 2015.

We are gratified that Florida’s business and government leaders have recognized the pivotal role our universities have in transforming the state’s economy into one that is globally competitive in the 21st century.   We will keep you informed as opportunities arise to advance this initiative in the coming weeks.

NOTE:  Attached is a copy of the report, which is embargoed until 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. Further details have also been embargoed by the event organizers, so specifics will not be available until after the press conference.


Frank T. Brogan


See related posts:

FEA Legislative Update, Week of January 11

Florida Council of 100 CEOs Behind Brogan’s Push for “Market-Driven” Education

“Closing the Talent Gap 2010” Florida Council of 100