Issues of Interest

PERFORMANCE FUNDING The State University System’s Board of Governors approved $245 million in state money for performance-based funding for universities, a $20 million increase over last year. The allocations are based on 10 performance measurements of each of the 11 state institutions, which include a six-year graduation rate, salaries of recent graduates, retention of students and student costs. The top three earners are the University of Florida, University of South Florida, and Florida State University. Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida A&M University and the University of North Florida did not qualify for new state performance funding this year.

CITIZENS INSURANCE The board that oversees Citizens Property Insurance voted to raise homeowner rates by an average 5.3 percent and commercial accounts an average of 8.4 percent. Citizens has more than 451,000 customers, many of them living near the coast or in South Florida. Homeowners in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties will pay as much as 10 percent more a year while residents in other coastal counties such as Collier, Santa Rosa and Pinellas, will see their rates decline. Citizens says they need to raise the premiums to cover rising costs associated with water damage claims that are not connected to hurricanes or tropical storms. Florida has not experienced a major hurricane for more than a decade.

FLORIDA POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY Florida Polytechnic University has been accredited by The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, becoming the agency’s 77th certified school in Florida. The accreditation is helpful as only students at accredited universities can receive federal grants and student loans. Accreditation is also required for the school to receive federal research and grant money. The University was established by the Legislature in 2012 as a science, technology, engineering and math university.

FLORIDA FOREVER The Florida Cabinet approved the use of $15 million from the Florida Forever program to buy 407 acres in Gilchrist County and to purchase a conservation easement to protect 6,071 acres of agricultural land in Polk and Hardee counties. Located near the Santa Fe River, the Gilchrist County property, purchased for $5.255 million, includes six springs and Blue Springs Park, which will continue to be operated as part of the state’s trail system. $9.79 million was used to purchase the conservation easement in the northeast corner of Hardee County and south-central Polk County.

EDUCATION YEAR-END TESTS The Florida Department of Education released their year-end test results this month. The greatest improvements were high school students passing the Algebra I end-of-course exam, which is a graduation requirement, and the Algebra II end-of course exam, which was eliminated by the Legislature beginning next year. There were modest improvements in English language arts, science and social studies.

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