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Florida lawmakers funnel $15 million to New College to recruit new faculty

A student makes her way past the sign at New College of Florida, Jan. 20, 2023, in Sarasota, Fla.
Chris O'Meara/AP
A student makes her way past the sign at New College of Florida, Jan. 20, 2023, in Sarasota, Fla.

A joint legislative panel approved steering $15 million to New College of Florida for expenses such as recruiting new faculty.

The Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which is made up of House and Senate members, signed off on the money after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced it as a priority amid a broader effort to target “trendy ideology” on campuses.

“Funds available may be used for hiring faculty, offering student scholarships, and covering additional operational costs necessary to transition into a world-class classical liberal arts educational institution,” a description of the budget amendment said.

The joint legislative panel is able to make mid-year budget decisions. Asked by Democrats about why the money was going through the commission instead of the full legislative process, university system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues said the funds would have an “immediate impact” on the quality of education for New College students.

But Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, questioned whether the proposal met legal criteria to come before the panel.

“I’m very concerned to agree to spend state dollars, especially when this may not be in line with what we’re legally allowed to do under the Florida statutes,” Powell said.

Rodrigues said the New College Board of Trustees would have authority over how the money is spent.

“The funds clearly are authorized for operational enhancements and the recruiting of new faculty. And so, you have to then yield over to the constitutional authority of the Board of Trustees to then spend the funds in a manner that is constitutional and in line with the legislative directives that have been provided,” Rodrigues said.

The money is part of an effort by DeSantis to reshape the small liberal-arts school in Sarasota. DeSantis last month appointed six conservative members to the Board of Trustees.

The board then ousted former President Patricia Okker and named Richard Corcoran, a former state House speaker and education commissioner, as interim president.

Corcoran is slated to earn a base salary of $699,000 in the post.

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