In an announcement made this week, Florida education officials said that they will not appeal a decision by the federal court which overturned the policy of charging students who are U.S. citizens but whose families are illegal aliens out-of-state tuition at state colleges and universities. During its regular meeting held this Tuesday, the State Board of Education voted unanimously to let the decision stand.
Also covered during the meeting, held in Boca Raton, was the five-year plan which sets lower achievement targets for minority students. Although the race-based standards have drawn opposition from many parts of the Florida community, including from state Governor Rick Scott, the board reaffirmed its commitment both to the new standards, and to its goal of raising the overall literacy and math proficiency levels for all Florida public school students.
U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore ruled last month in Miami that charging higher tuition to students due to their parents' immigration status violates their equal protection rights. The decision will reduce tuition for those students beginning with the spring 2013 semester.
The board members and college presidents who weighed in at the meeting expressed their support for the federal court decision. J. David Armstrong, president of Broward College said that presidents of other colleges in the system opposed an appeal, and were prepared to comply with the ruling.
The decision by the State Board of Education doesn't mean that an appeal is completely off the table. The board oversees only the 28 state and community colleges. The body responsible for Florida's 12 public universities – the Board of Governors – which also has the right to appeal the ruling, will not be considering the issue at its next meeting in Sarasota, which is scheduled to take place this Thursday.
Last week, State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan provided guidelines to the university presidents about compliance with the ruling. The presidents must notify the students effected about the final decision to comply or to appeal by the middle of next week.
On the other matter, Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand noted the strategic plan adopted last month includes a footnote saying the eventual goal is reading and math proficiency for all students. While the five-year goals are lower for black and Hispanic students than for whites and Asians, they would narrow existing gaps between those groups.
"We have to acknowledge that there are different starting points among groups of students today," Chartrand said. "What is important now is that we focus on how we will achieve our goal."