Cheers to State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota for a pair of big achievements. First, the college finally broke ground on a long-awaited undertaking — a new library, first proposed in 2007. College leaders, trustees, legislators and others — numbering some 60 attendees — happily celebrated the beginning of construction on the $17.68 million, state-of-the-art Library & Learning Center project early this month.
During ceremony, SCF President Carol Probstfeld put the game-changing project in perspective: “This is the centerpiece for the future” of the college. Indeed, this will advance SCF’s mission and upgrade the educational experience for students.
Books will only be one piece of the learning puzzle the library will provide. “Our new Library & Learning Center provides our students with the technology-driven, collaborative learning environment that mirrors private industry practices and provides us with an adaptable platform that can respond to the workforce needs of the future,” Probstfeld stated in her final remarks.
Construction on the 64,000-square-foot library, which will feature a one-stop student service center, technology maker spaces (with 3-D printers and a teaching and visualization theater), meeting rooms, archive rooms, café and seminar room — will continue through 2017 with an anticipated debut in January 2018.
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Not only will this center serve students with a more diverse and vibrant education, the college touts this as a community resource, too.
The second triumph showcases one of SCF’s gems. The State College of Florida Collegiate School, an on-campus charter that begins with sixth grade, guides and mentors students to earn both a high school diploma and an associate in arts degree upon graduation. The technology-driven, independent learning environment prepares students for success in a full-time college schedule beginning their junior year.
The U.S. Department of Education named the Collegiate School a 2016 National Blue Ribbon School, one among some 330 public and private schools nationwide so honored. Anyone who has toured this school fully appreciates its innovative and successful mission. The Florida Department of Education has designated SCFCS as a high performing charter school. And the school has earned “A” grades from the state since opening in 2010.
This region is blessed with a dynamic educational institution dedicated to not only delivering a high quality degrees but serving the community and workforce in many diverse ways. Kudos, SCF, for the significant advances.
Jeers to voter suppression under Scott
Under Gov. Rick Scott, Florida holds an unenviable record of trying to suppress voting, mostly among minorities, the young and other demographics that lean toward Democratic candidates. The latest dustup came this week when a federal judge blasted the state law that voids vote-by-mail ballots if the signature doesn’t match the one on file. Voters are not informed their ballot has been trashed.
But state law requires elections officers to notify voters who fail to sign their mail ballots in time for citizens to rectify the situation. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker called out the clearly unfair conflict between the statutes, calling this “illogical, irrational and patently bizarre” and criticizing the state for disenfranchising voters and having “consistently chipped away at the right to vote.”
When Secretary of State Ken Detzner tried to delay a ruling in the lawsuit, the judge cited his actions as amounting to an “undeclared war” on the right to vote in the state.
Other examples of that include:
▪ Scott continues to take a hard line on restoring the right to vote on convicted nonviolent felons who have served their sentences, rejecting the vast majority of appeals and delaying Clemency Board hearings on those appeals for years. Under former Gov. Charlie Crist, nonviolent offenders automatically won the right to vote upon release. Under Scott, Florida is one of the three states with such tough policies. State Attorney General Pam Bondi tightened the rules after winning the office in 2010.
▪ In 2011, the state slashed early voting days from 14 to eight, resulting in long lines and long waits for voters in the 2012 presidential election. A federal appeals court denied approval of the move, and the state passed a law in 2013 restoring the 14-day window.
▪ Scott’s 2012 attempt to scrub the rolls of noncitizen voters failed after three federal appeals court judges rules the action illegal because it occurred less than 90 days before a federal election. In advance of that, the state listed 180,000 suspected voters amid widespread outrage, soon cut that down to 2,600 and then 198. A mere 85 voters were stricken from the rolls.
▪ In another unreasonable move, Scott and Detzner strongly opposed online voter registration when legislation surfaced in 2015, claiming this easy, new avenue to enrollment was too risky. Reality debunks that position; the states with online registration report no widespread fraud. The state’s elections supervisors described online registration as “convenient yet secure.” Realizing the battle was lost, Detzner got the Legislature to delay implementation until 2017 — thus bypassing this presidential election. Begrudgingly, Scott signed the measure into law since he had little choice; the bill passed in the House by a 109-9 vote and in the Senate by 37-3. A veto override looked certain.
This shameful recent history gives Florida a black eye across the nation. On the eve of a historic presidential election, we can only wonder what’s next in this pivotal swing state where 500 votes can the make the difference in the presidency.
Quote of the week
“I never thought it would be this heard to get housing. I’m still trusting God that he is going to make a way for myself and my family to get us a house.” — Jared Anderson Jr., telling the Herald about the hardship he, his wife and children are enduring while living in motels, unable to find affordable housing in Manatee County.