Legislature should allow voters to decide on funding for MDC

Timageshe Florida House of Representatives very soon will consider House Bill 113 (HB 113), a piece of legislation with great significance to Miami-Dade County. In the best tradition of democracy, HB 113 would allow us, the voters, to determine if we want to provide a dedicated temporary half-cent sales tax for Miami Dade College (MDC) for a period of five years.

Unlike Jackson Memorial Hospital and the local public school system, both of which have benefited from local referenda, MDC is a state-supported institution and a vote on such a measure must be authorized by the Florida Legislature.

Since 1960, MDC has been a vital community institution. Believe it or not, more than 2 million people have passed through the college’s classrooms, in a county of 2.5 million people.

Countless households have seen their prospects enhanced because of MDC, and many of our business and civic leaders got their start at MDC. Today, MDC is the nation’s largest college, and while that is not its defining characteristic, it is very significant. It reflects the college’s commitment to an open door policy; if you have the aspiration to attend college, MDC will welcome and work with you.

What does define this college, however, is quality. MDC has won nearly every national award, and is regarded as the finest open-door institution in the country. But that level of quality is severely in question because of funding neglect by the state. Twenty years ago, 75 percent of MDC’s total revenue came from state funding; today, that percentage has fallen to less than 50 percent.

Funding per full-time equivalent student also has been in decline every year since 2007, with decreases ranging between 14 percent and 25 percent. MDC is a model of efficiency but that level of funding decline is intolerable. The burden falls upon students who can ill afford the added costs.

Across the country, local state colleges are supported by state and local funding, as well as student tuition. Not the case in Florida where no local funding is in effect.

HB 113 has passed nearly unanimously through all committees and awaits a floor vote.

Inexplicably, four of our local Miami-Dade House members are actively opposing passage. It is important to restate the basic principle of HB 113: it simply allows us, the local voters, to decide if we want to support a local source of funds to the college. We elected them to represent us, not decide for us. If they stop listening, they fail to represent us.

We urge you to visit <www.voicesformdc.org>, and make your voice heard on HB 113.

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