Opinion/Analysis

Vote Yes on Amendment 7 to protect higher education

By Dr. Ava Parker, President of Palm Beach State College and chair of Council of Presidents

As November 6th draws near, we have the ability to amend the state Constitution to reflect Florida’s current and future educational and workforce needs. In addition to voting for the next governor, several members in Congress, and many state legislators, you will have the opportunity to vote on a number of amendments, thanks to the hard work performed by the Constitution Revision Commission. One of the most important is Amendment 7. It would place the Florida College System into Florida’s Constitution, along with providing first responder and military member survivor benefits and requiring a supermajority vote of the state university system to increase fees.

Dr. Ava Parker

A “yes” vote on Amendment 7, also known as the First Responder and Higher Education Amendment, will recognize and protect the responsibility that Florida’s 28 colleges have in our state’s workforce training, economic development and academic needs. As the only public educational entity not currently in the Florida Constitution, a “yes” vote will affirm the community and state colleges’ role as providing open access and quality education in your community. The K-12 and state university systems were placed in the state Constitution many years ago.

One of the reasons that the Florida College System has historically been the best in the nation is due to the governance structure and commitment of each college’s local District Board of Trustees (Board). Each Board is tasked with providing oversight and direction specific to each college. The emphasis that Amendment 7 has on preserving local control is key to the current and future success of our system. This allows the Florida College System, through each Board, to be responsive to the academic and workforce needs of each individual community. The region that Palm Beach State College serves does not reflect the same needs as the area that College of Central Florida serves. Knowing their specific college, the business needs in their community, and the experience and professionalism they have to guide their respective college is what makes each local Board critical for each region of Florida.

Voting in favor of Amendment 7 will also provide college tuition and other benefits to the survivors of first responders and military members killed on 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 the 800,000 students that the Florida College System serves annually. No matter your party affiliation, Amendment 7 is something we can all agree on. Florida TaxWatch, for example, recently announced its full support of Amendment 7. As an independent, nonpartisan government watchdog, TaxWatch works to ensure accountability of Florida’s government.

The most important thing to do this election season is to make your voice heard by voting. Vote “yes” to protect our Florida colleges. Vote “yes” to protect our first responders. Vote “yes” to protect our military personnel. When you get your ballot, go straight to Amendment 7 and vote yes – it is that important.

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