Legislative Update #4

April 1, 2019

legislative update

House and Senate Appropriations Bills Update

Senate and House Appropriations Committees have passed out their respective budgets, inclusive of higher education budget proposals for 2019-20. Which is best? The Senate. Which is adequate? Neither.

Please send your representative and senator the message that higher education budgets are not adequate. Tell representatives not to punish faculty for administrative misconduct. You might want to thank senators for a good starting point, but their funding levels should grow to support students and faculty.

Florida College System (reprised from last week)

The 2019-20 House budget proposal for colleges is basically flat with no real increase in funding and continues the performance funding of $60 million, half of which is state investment and the other half being the institutional investment.

The total of the House proposed Program Fund is approximately $1.2 billion. Note: College funding is exclusive of tuition and fees.

The 2019-20 Senate budget proposal for colleges increase operating funds in two categories. First, there is a $15.5 million increase in “Compression” funds for colleges funded below the statewide average. Second, there is a $22.5 million increase in operating funds to all colleges.

In the Senate proposal, performance funds are being replaced by Student Success incentives. $28 million is allocated to a 2+2 Student Success Incentive and $12 million to a Work Florida Incentive Fund.

The total increase in operating funds in the Senate proposal is approximately 3.6%.

State University System

The Senate spends $285.3 million more for universities than the House in a total budget of about $6 billion. The House cuts university Education and General (E&G) operating budgets by over $100 million or a 2.5% reduction of their base operating budgets. The reduction is a direct result of two concerns raised by the House Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee and its chairman, Representative Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay). First, it is a response to the misuse of operating funds at UCF for construction. Second, it is due to the large reserve accounts of most universities. This has been a constant rebuke of universities brought by Chairman Fine in appropriations meetings leading up to the budget proposal.

The House proposal also includes a $20 million reduction in preeminence funding which is a 13% cut to those universities.

The 2019-20 Senate budget proposal for universities shows an approximate increase of 1.03% over 2018-19. This include tuition funded at the same level as this year, a total of $1.8 billion.

Higher Education Policy Issues Last Week

The most significant action was the passage of CS/HB 839 from the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee on March 26. The bill will go to the House Education Committee next, possibly this week. Watch for UFF legislative alerts!

HB 839 has the primary focus on improving the university performance funding model and, while not perfect, on that concern it does improve upon and offers further study of performance funding at both the college and university level. But the bill also inserts a divisive survey of faculty, students and administrators to report on the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at each university.

UFF opposes that provision as voted upon unanimously at our UFF Senate meeting in February.

The motion adopted reads:

Move that:  Be it resolved that we, the members of the UFF, strongly oppose any attempt by the State of Florida to require the implementation of any survey intended to measure or evaluate the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity at institutions of higher learning. UFF has always supported the open and honest exchange of ideas, perspectives and claims of truth both inside and outside of the classroom.  This process cannot be measured or characterized by a survey which by its nature would be purely subjective. Such an attempt would be open to political manipulation and could have a chilling effect on intellectual and academic freedom.

Looking Ahead

SB 1296 is scheduled for hearing Tuesday, April 2 from 10 to noon, in the Senate Education Committee. This is the companion to HB 839. Contact the committee members and ask them to support Senator Berman’s amendment to remove the survey from SB 1296. That amendment, barcode 171926, will delete lines containing the survey language.

Also, watch for an alert should HB 839 be placed on the agenda of the House Education Committee this week.

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