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Regents vow to fight board's demise

Some members of the Board of Regents say they'll study alternatives to the governor's plans to disband the board.

By BARRY KLEIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- At least some members of the state Board of Regents have no intention of going quietly into oblivion.

That became clear Thursday shortly after the regents voted to re-elect Tom Petway as board chairman. Petway, a friend and appointee of Gov. Jeb Bush, has said he supports the governor's call for a restructuring of Florida's education system, a change that would abolish the regents in 2003.

That stance hasn't sat well with some board members, none more so than Jon Moyle, a West Palm Beach regent and appointee of Democratic former Gov. Lawton Chiles.

After Thursday's vote, Moyle said he wanted to make it clear he was withholding his support for Petway's re-election.

It's nothing personal, Moyle said.

"I just believe the regents have a responsibility to actively, aggressively and convincingly proceed" to try to change the plan, he said. The plan also has the backing of state lawmakers.

Petway accused Moyle of misrepresenting his position, which Moyle denied. Petway then said he would have no problem if the regents formed a committee that could offer alternatives to their abolishment.

Several of the Chiles appointees on the board quickly asked for seats. None of the Bush appointees said a word.

Moyle declared the committee's formation a good start.

"At least we aren't just rolling over," he said.

University system Chancellor Adam Herbert, who said the proposed changes have caused considerable anxiety among higher-education staffers, said he thinks the committee's analysis is warranted.

"This is a very critical issue for the state," Herbert said.

He declined, however to assess the likelihood that anything resembling the regents will still be around after 2003.

So did Petway: "I'm not commenting on that."

In other action Thursday:

The regents recommended a 13 percent tuition increase to go into effect in 2001-2002. Ten percent of the increase would be mandatory, while the other 3 percent would be assessed at the discretion of each university.

University system officials said the increase would move Florida's tuition from the 49th lowest in the United States to 46th.

A decision on the increase will be made by lawmakers and Bush.

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