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January 11, 2002

CONTACT: Lauren Cain
Director of Communications

Florida Board of Education
From the desk of Jim Horne, Secretary

What a Week!

Governor Bush Reaffirms that Education is his Top Priority
President George W. Bush Signs Landmark Education Reform Act into Law
U.S. Senator Bob Graham calls the K-20 System an Anthrax-Like Infection

Governor Bush Reaffirms that Education is his Top Priority

Governor Jeb Bush this week reaffirmed that education is his top priority when he announced he is recommending nearly $1 billion in new funding for education in 2002-03. By unveiling his 2002-03 budget ( proposals by focusing on education first, he reinforced that he puts education at the top of his funding and policy priority list. The Governor's education recommendations mirror a seamless approach to funding and feature the following elements promoted by the Florida Board of Education:

  • Enrollment increases at all levels of education delivery and their important role in the state's economic strength.
  • Continued devolution of authority to the state's universities to provide them the same governance authority enjoyed by community colleges, including tuition flexibility for out-of-state and graduate students and independent status over operations.
  • Commitment to K-20 leadership training on key issues related to seamlessness, including accountability, standards, administrative and academic best practices, remediation, and articulation.
  • Flexibility for local school districts to manage resources more effectively.
  • Recognition of the vital role of community colleges in meeting critical workforce needs in the areas of nursing and teaching.

President George W. Bush Signs Landmark Education Reform Act into Law

Florida's education reform efforts are reflected in President Bush's "Leave No Child Behind" ( federal education act, signed into law this week. We intend to play a significant role in defining key elements of this important legislation in areas where Florida is a national leader, such as accountability, assessment and performance. The Act's provisions include:

  • Accountability
  • State and local flexibility
  • Streamlining bureaucracy
  • Expanding parental choice
  • Reading First initiatives
  • Teacher quality
  • Dollars to the classroom
  • Safer schools
  • Home and rural schools

I was proud to represent our state, its educators and students, on Thursday at Mt. Vernon during a roundtable discussion with U.S. Secretary Rod Paige regarding these important issues.

U.S. Senator Bob Graham Calls K-20 System an Anthrax-Like Infection

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 Chairman 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."

Florida Schools Earn C in National Evaluation; Test Plan Draws Praise

Florida's K-12 education system earned a C overall, falling in the middle of the 50 states, on a new grading of state education policies conducted by Education Week (, a national education newspaper. Education Week graded states on whether they had clear standards for what students should know at each grade level, if they test students against the standards, and if schools are held accountable for the results. Florida tests its public school students in almost every grade level; it gets an A- for those efforts. It's grades fall in the areas of qualified teachers and adequate funding.

One of the hallmarks of Gov. Jeb Bush's administration has been his A+ School Accountability program, which grades schools on student performance. Students in Florida are tested in grades three through eight in mathematics, reading, and writing. The tests, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, are used to determine whether students graduate and whether schools earn monetary rewards or face greater state oversight. Students in schools that receive failing grades for two years are eligible for vouchers to attend private schools. Betty Coxe, the state's Deputy Commissioner for Educational Programs, said the education department was pleased that the A+ School grading system was recognized.

115,578 Youth Benefiting From Mentoring in Florida

Governor Jeb Bush announced a new partner in his Mentoring Initiative -- the Municipal Mentoring Initiative -- an effort to spur cities to allow their employees time to serve as mentors. Joined by Mayor Scott Black of Dade City, president of the Florida League of Cities, and Mayor Rick Baker of St. Petersburg, the Governor unveiled the initiative to celebrate January as the first official Mentor Month in Florida and National Mentoring Month nationwide. The Governor also announced 115,578 of Florida's youth are benefiting from mentoring. In addition:

  • A Prevalence Study of mentoring in the 2001 school year revealed that there are currently 72,597 mentor/mentee matches and an additional 42,981 group mentoring matches.
  • U.S. Postal Service unveiled the new Mentor a Child postage stamp. The stamp will be available nationwide beginning January 11, 2002.
  • Television public service announcements are available by contacting the Governor's Mentoring Office at 850-413-0909.
  • To register to become a mentor, visit

French Government Honors Bernardo García

Bernardo A. García, Florida Department of Education Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Equity, Safety and School Support will receive the greatest academic honor offered by the French Government, the French Academic Palms. This honor will be bestowed on Mr. García during a January 24 ceremony at Florida State University's Dodd Hall.

Fla. Teacher of the Year tapped as Regional Finalist for National Honor

Henry Brown, Florida's 2002 Florida Department of Education/Burdines Teacher of the Year, has been designated a Regional Finalist for the National Teacher of the Year award. "I am very excited by the news that Henry Brown is one of the four regional finalists to become National Teacher of the Year, Governor Bush said. "Thanks to his hard work and dedication, Henry has become a source of inspiration not only to his students and colleagues in Broward County, but also to teachers and students across our entire state. "Teachers like Henry are helping Florida's children achieve their full potential and reach new heights every day, and we are very proud to have him represent Florida's educational establishment at the national level. Lt. Governor Frank Brogan joins me in congratulating Henry on this very important accomplishment and wishing him the best of luck."

DOE Reorganization

The plan for reorganizing the Florida Department of Education ( as presented at the December board meeting has been well received by the Legislature and the Executive Office. While there are minor changes to be made, I feel confident that the fundamental goals of the reorganization plan are intact. We are initiating communication with all delivery systems to ensure a smooth transition. We are committed to ensuring that the transition will result in a more efficient service-oriented organization.

K-20 Legislative Affairs

The governmental relations staff, at my direction, has begun a series of meetings with legislators to discuss our 2002 agenda, approved at the last board meeting. Chief among issues is devolution of authority to the university boards of trustees and full adoption of the school code revision recommendations. Tuesday evening, I attended a meeting of the legislative liaisons from K-12, community colleges and universities, thanking them for their cooperation on the school code revision project. Along with our staff, I spoke to them about the great opportunity before us, and asked for their cooperation as we begin coordinating our lobbying efforts. The staff has also made numerous presentations at committee meetings this week on the school code revision, pupil retention requirements, effects of mentoring and reading programs, distribution of school recognition funds, and districts' reserves for merit pay. As the Legislature convenes on January 22, the staff and I will continue to monitor meetings, track issues, and keep you informed. The school code revision and the 2002-03 budget continue to be the major education issues at this time.

Florida Reading Initiative

On September 7, 2001, Governor Bush signed an executive order initiating a comprehensive project to improve reading achievement in Florida's public schools. The executive order directed the Department of Education, in coordination with the Florida Board, to develop a comprehensive strategy to improve reading achievement. After several months of intense work collecting best practices, research, surveying school districts and conducting focus groups, the department has submitted an interim report. The next step is to work through proposed strategies and develop final plans. I will keep you updated on the progress of the initiative.

Upcoming Events

January 17 -- Florida Board of Education Strategic Planning Workshop, University of West Florida, Pensacola
January 18 -- Florida Board of Education Meeting
(, University of West Florida, Pensacola

In other News

Schools chief aims for state overhaul
- Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel / Orlando Sentinel
Nation's education leaders will help write federal rules
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Legislators successfully lobbied to get the strings attached to state education funding removed this year
- Vero Beach News-Press

If you know of anyone interested in receiving this e-newsletter, they may request to have their e-mail added by sending a message to Director of Communications Lauren Cain at