Florida lawmakers back college after Jeb Bush

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (MCT) – Calling a recent snub of Jeb Bush an insult, state lawmakers demanded Tuesday that the University of Florida find a new way to honor the former governor. Their solution: Rename the university’s College of Education after the Republican governor.

A House panel unanimously voted to force the state’s largest university to honor Bush after a decision last month by Florida’s Faculty Senate to reject a proposal to award Bush an honorary degree.

“I don’t think anyone would disagree that Jeb Bush had a passion for education,” said state Rep. David Rivera, who sponsored the proposal. Rivera acknowledged the decision by the university’s faculty sparked his decision to push the legislation, which would require putting Bush’s name on the building and changing all maps, brochures and college catalogs.

“A lot of us felt insulted that a former governor should be treated in this fashion,” he said.

Bush, however, doesn’t want the honor, said Patricia Levesque, who now heads the Foundation for Florida’s Future, the nonprofit organization that Bush set up to promote his education reforms.

“While Gov. Bush appreciates the gesture, he believes public service is an honor in and of itself and naming a building, road or program after an elected official will diminish that service,” said Levesque in an e-mail. “Additionally, the most appropriate time to name something after an elected official is after their passing.”

Under state law, only the Legislature can name buildings, roads or parks after a living person. Universities routinely use naming rights as a way to coax donors into giving money to the schools. Rivera’s proposal was added to a yearly university building naming bill.

Rivera also got the House Schools and Learning Council to rename the president’s house at Florida International University after President Ronald Reagan.

Steve Orlando, a spokesman for the University of Florida, said the university was unaware of Rivera’s push to rename the college, but said Florida would “welcome their recognition of the UF College of Education’s excellence by naming it after this state leader.”

But Danaya Wright, the current university Faculty Senate president and a law professor at the school in Gainesville, said that while the university has “no control” over the Legislature, lawmakers should have asked those at the college whether they were in favor of the change.

“I hope the Legislature would consider the wishes of the College of Education in this matter,” said Wright.