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January 11, 2002

CONTACT: Lauren Cain
Director of Communications

Florida Board of Education Chairman Responds to U.S. Senator's "anthrax-like infection" Statement

In a letter to U.S. Senator Bob Graham today, Florida Board of Education Chairman Phil Handy chided Senator Graham for misusing his position to frighten and confuse Florida's citizens, and invited Florida's senior senator to "engage in a relevant, factual discussion of the educational needs of students in our state."

The letter from Mr. Handy was written in response to a speech Senator Graham delivered earlier this week in which he referenced an "anthrax-like infection" to define Florida's new seamless, student-centered education governance structure.

"As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, you have a responsibility to Florida's citizens to present factual information on issues of national importance, not to incite through fear," Chairman Handy wrote. "You have misused the bully pulpit to frighten and confuse Florida's citizens. This is the worst kind of political demagoguery."

Senator Graham is leading a petition drive to establish a constitutional amendment that would replace the new K-20 seamless system of education governance with a separate governing board for higher education. The state is currently transitioning to the new governance structure, which will become a constitutional body in January 2003. The call for an appointed Florida Board of Education to oversee all levels of education was approved by Florida voters in 1998, and its implementation was enacted into law by the 2001 Florida Legislature.

"Florida's universities are the source of tremendous human potential -- student potential," Handy wrote. "Florida does not need a buffer like the board you are proposing to protect higher education; it needs a bridge to enable more Floridians to access its greatest gift: lifelong learning."

A copy of Chairman Handy's letter to Senator Graham is attached.