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PRESS RELEASE

June 23, 2003

Alia Faraj
(850) 488-5394

Statement by Governor Jeb Bush
Regarding the Michigan Supreme Court Ruling

TALLAHASSEE — "The Supreme Court's decision today acknowledges that race-conscious college admissions policies are ultimately at odds with the guarantee of equal protection under the law. Instead of striking down these policies on this basis, the court allowed their limited use, but suggested their eventual demise.

"The Court specifically referenced Florida's race-neutral admissions program and encouraged other states to follow our lead. We agree with the Court's opinion that similar programs should be the norm across the country. Our experience in Florida has proven that race-neutral programs support meaningful diversity.

"Four years ago, Florida launched One Florida to increase opportunity and diversity in our state universities without the divisive crutch of quotas, racial preferences, or set asides. Critics of One Florida predicted sharp declines in minority students. However, today's minority enrollment in state universities, including flagship universities, is the same or higher than four years ago. In the 2002-03 class, 36.2 percent of all new students were minorities, as were 23.5 percent of all new graduate students. One Florida's success clearly demonstrates that diversity can be attained through race-neutral means.

"One Florida has successfully leveled the education playing field for all Floridians regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or zip code. We have broadened the search for talented minorities through greater outreach and recruitment, and increased access for and success of under-represented students. We provide AP course opportunities statewide for students in low performing schools. From 2001 to 2002 the number of African American and Hispanic students who took AP examinations increased by 21 percent and 22 percent respectively. Florida also provides free SAT test preparation for low-income students and free PSAT or PLAN testing for all tenth graders.

"We remain committed to diversity in Florida, but believe it must be achieved in ways that comply with the Constitution's purpose of doing away with all government discrimination based on race. We're going to stay the course on race-neutral admissions and expand our programs to reach all Florida students who yearn for higher education."

  One Florida Education Myths
Myth 1: The promise of the One Florida Initiatives is an illusion
Truth: The promise of One Florida is working and the data proves it. In 2002, Florida led the nation in the numbers of African American students taking and passing Advanced Placement (AP) tests. Florida also led the nation in the increase in numbers of minority students taking SAT tests. Minority students are improving at a faster rate — across the board — than all other students. This is supported by continued improvements in FCAT scores. One Florida initiatives is changing the education landscape as coordinated programs reach more and more students and teachers who need assistance. Florida is educating minds, not flipping switches.

Prior to Governor Bush's race-neutral plan, ethnic and minority students were admitted to the State University System in modest numbers. What is now clear is the relatively poor preparation of many of those students and the dismal retention and graduation rates that ensued. The coordinated efforts promoted by Governor Bush and implemented by the Department of Education, foster a plan that changes the essence of what solid educational preparation will mean for students in Florida. Programs such as Just Read Florida, statewide pre-K screening, ending social promotion, the insistence on identifying and helping struggling students, coupled with an accountability system that monitors individual student learning gains has improved student preparation, access and success, across the board. These were never goals in Affirmative Action Programs. Affirmative action is about numbers. Florida's race-neutral policies are about inclusion, opportunity, access and success for all who want it

Myth 2: The One Florida Initiative ends affirmative action.
Truth: One Florida is an alternative to race-based preferences and quotas. It is more affirmative and action-oriented than the old system, which relied less on recruiting and outreach and more on unfair quotas, preferences and set-asides. Governor Bush sought to recognize the disparity of educational offerings across the K-12 system, and the One Florida Plan does this by addressing the historical inequities in the education system. One Florida offers an infrastructure of coordinated programs to provide high quality educational offerings for all students.
Myth 3: The One Florida Initiative eliminates a “legal obligation” or law requiring that the state use set asides, quotas and preferences.
Truth: Florida's state government was never constitutionally or statutorily required to use race, ethnicity or gender based set asides, quotas or preferences in awarding state contracts or admitting students to state universities. No student had a legal right for consideration prior to One Florida. In fact, before the Talented Twenty Program, which guarantees admission to public high school students graduating in the top 20 percent of their class, there was not a legal entitlement to university admission.
Myth 4: The Talented 20 Program exempts the University of Florida, Florida State University, and the University of Central Florida
Truth: The Talented 20 Program provides an opportunity for students who might not have thought about higher education, and all state universities participate in it. Students eligible for Talented 20 are guaranteed admission to one of the eleven state universities, as long as they comply with individual university requirements.

Myth 5: Minority enrollment in our State University System (SUS) has declined under the One Florida Initiative

Truth: Under One Florida, enrollment has held steady or increased throughout the State University System. Every university is held accountable to expand recruitment, outreach and retention activities. This makes the admissions process more creative, affirmative and aggressive. Recruitment efforts were deplorable under the passivity of race-conscious admissions processes.
  • In 1999 there were 10,615 minority students in the State University System (SUS). In 1998-99 35.59 percent of first time in college students (FTIC) were minorities.
  • In 2002 the number increased to 12,795 minority students, or 36.78 percent minority FTIC students.
  • Early numbers for 2003-04 look promising

While race will no longer be used as an admissions factor, state universities, including the University of Florida and Florida State University, will still achieve a diverse student body through aggressive outreach, geographical diversity and income level. FSU admissions efforts brought significant gains in 2001-02 and UF did well in 2002-03. These other factors give universities the flexibility needed to ensure that universities remain diverse centers of learning, growth and development.

Myth 6: Experiences in California and Texas suggest that the One Florida Initiative won't work at Florida's Universities
Truth: One Florida does work, and minority enrollment figures in the State University System prove its value. The precipitous decline in university admissions experienced in California and Texas never materialized in Florida. Florida's comprehensive K-20 plan to ensure high quality educational offerings for all students has increased the pipeline of historically underrepresented students prepared and interested in postsecondary pursuits. Coupled with more aggressive and targeted recruitment and retention programs, Florida is implementing a short- and long-term strategy to ensure diversity in higher education. And that program is working.
Myth 7: The One Florida Initiative will have a negative impact on minority enrollment at graduate and professional schools
Truth: In the Fall of 2002, graduate and professional school admissions were up 33.7 percent from 2000. In 1999, 24.39 percent of the incoming graduate and professional students were minorities. In 2002 that number increased to 25.46 percent.
Myth 8: If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the University of Michigan, Florida will have to turn back the clock
Truth: One Florida is working, and the Supreme Court's ruling will not change Florida's race neutral admissions policies and programs. If the University of Michigan's race based admissions program is upheld, other states may use similar programs to admit students but will not be required to do so, and Florida will not go back in time to set asides and quotas. In 2002, Florida led the nation in the numbers of African American students taking and passing Advanced Placement tests. Florida also led the nation in the increase in numbers of minority students taking SAT tests. Minority students are improving at a faster rate — across the board — than all other students. This is further supported by continued improvements in FCAT scores.