Affirmative Action Ban Denounced
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Gov. Jeb Bush is pushing for the swift application of his affirmative action ban, despite a high-profile protest by black lawmakers and three public hearings packed with opponents.
``The governor is committed to moving ahead with the One Florida plan,″ Bush spokesman Justin Sayfie said Thursday after 1,200 people attended the final hearing. Delay ``would mean African-American high school seniors would lose an opportunity to attend the state university system.″
Bush did not attend the final hearings on the proposal, which would eliminate race and gender as factors in university admissions and the awarding of state contracts.
The Republican governor has insisted the plan would improve diversity in education and contracting jobs by increasing outreach efforts to minorities historically shut out of opportunities.
Students who take a difficult enough course load and finish in the top 20 percent of their high school graduating class would be guaranteed admission to some state universities under the proposal.
The Board of Regents, which governs state universities, meets Feb. 17 to vote on some portions of the plan. Whatever is approved goes to the governor and Cabinet, which serves as the Board of Education.
As in the past two meetings, the third hearing included hundreds of critics of the plan. Many denounced it as an attack on women and minorities.
Margaret Hyde, a representative for the American Association of University Women, said the plan was an inadequate substitute for affirmative action for women in Florida.
``The One Florida plan will not work,″ added Anthony Viegbesie, president of the Tallahassee branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. ``The One Florida plan is anti-minority, anti-women, anti-poverty and must be killed.″
Last month, two black lawmakers staged a 25-hour sit-in inside Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan’s office, demanding that Bush rescind his executive order to put One Florida in place.
Bush refused, but he agreed to the public hearings. This week, while 1,000 students protested in the Capitol, Bush agreed to add a three-year ``accountability measure″ to make sure enough minorities are admitted into state universities.
Some participants were angry at Bush for not attending the meeting, just a brief walk from his office. ``You are a he-devil,″ said Robert L. Lewis, an elder at Words of Life church in Tallahassee.
The Legislature will have significant say on the One Florida plan, including changes in how state contracts are awarded. Opponents plan to march on the Capitol on the opening day of the legislative session, March 7.