||affirmative action in florida
Recently Governor Jeb Bush has pushed for the passage of a plan he calls ONE FLORIDA, an executive order to abolish affirmative action in the state of Florida. Through the
history of affirmative action in our country and its ensuing abolition, politicians and society at
large are ever debating the merits of a racially based admissions, hiring, and contracting
program. With anti-affirmative programs already in effect in both California and Texas, Florida
is following suit with a college admissions program designed to diversify college student bodies
without becoming racially discriminatory. Also incorporated into ONE FLORIDA are new
standards in both hiring and contracting. To better understand these changes we must look at
the history of affirmative action and later, whether or not it is constitutional.
The term affirmative action predates the civil rights movement. According to John
Skrentny, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, the basic idea
comes from "the centuries-old English legal concept of equity or the administration of justice
according to what was fair in a particular situation, as opposed to rigidly following legal rules,
which may have a harsh result" (Skrentny 6). The phrase affirmative action was first used in
the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, and it referred to employers discriminating against
union members. In 1961, with the enactment of President John F. Kennedy's Executive Order
10925, advising employers to take affirmative action to ensure nondiscrimination, the term
became synonymous with the civil rights movement (Bloch 70). President Lyndon B. Johnson's
Executive Order 11246 expanded on the civil rights issue by ordering contracting firms with the
federal government to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that
employees are treated during employment without regards to race, creed, color or national
origin" (qtd. in Skrentny 7). Eventually affirmative action was included in private hiring
practices and college admissions programs throughout the country.
This ideal called affirmative action has now come to mean reverse discrimination when
one race or gender is shown preferential treatment in admissions or hiring. In state colleges
such as Florida State University and the University of Florida, some minority students are
admitted solely on the basis of color, excluding qualified white applicants, to diversify the
make-up of the student body. With the enactment of FLORIDA ONE diversification will be
based on "race-neutral socioeconomic factors...[without regards] to race or ethnicity", as well as
"factors such as income level, geography, special talents and whether an applicant is a first
generation college student" (Equity in Education). Included in Governor Bush's plan is the
Talented 20 program. This program will guarantee admissions to any Florida state school to the
top 20% of all seniors graduating public high school in the state regardless of SAT or ACT
scores. Bush believes that "as a result of the Talented 20 program, approximately 1,200
additional minority high school students will be given the opportunity to attend a state
university" (ONE FLORIDA Myths). However, the Talented 20 does not guarantee admissions
into the university of choice. It also does not replace the current admissions process. The
Talented 20 is in addition to the regular admissions process. The Governor proposes "additional
funding to accommodate this additional students" (ONE FLORIDA Myths). ONE FLORIDA is
also designed to help all facets of education in Florida by asking the Legislature to increase
funding for need-based aid by $20 million.
We will seek $1.6 million to ensure all 10th grade children take the Preliminary
Scholastic Achievement Test, $2.4 million to expand Florida's On-Line High School
to target students in D and F schools, $10 million for the Governor's Mentoring
Initiative, and a $1 million increase in funding for the College Reach Out Program.
We will also pay incentive bonuses for teaching Advanced Placement Courses on our
low performing schools.(Equity in Education)
In the improved version of ONE FLORIDA, the Governor's Executive Budget has
recommended "an increase of $36 million for [A+ Supplemental Instruction], as well as other
intervention strategies and activities to improve student achievement" (Improvements to ONE
FLORIDA). In addition the College Board partnership will provide free on-line access to SAT
preparation activities for all Florida high school students. By these increases in funding,
Governor Bush is ensuring that more minority students who are planning to attend college are
better prepared to meet the requirements for both admissions and the rigors of postsecondary
education (Equity in Education).
It is a proven fact that students who are not properly prepared for postsecondary
education and are admitted on the basis of race or gender do not fare as well as truly qualified
white students. Robert M. O'Neil, attorney and Vice President of Indiana University, published
a study of white law students vs. black ones. The study conducted by Professor George N.
Stevens in conjunction with the Association of American Law Schools Bar Examination Study
Project, carefully observed 1,042 minority students during their three years in law school and
when taking the bar examination (68). According to Stevens' findings, "154 minority students
were dismissed for academic reasons ~ a rate higher than that for white-Anglo students...167
students simply disappeared...and 100 of these students withdrew voluntarily during the three
years"(qtd. in O'Neal 69). Stevens goes on to report that out of 408 graduates who took the bar
examination "only 56% of blacks passed", and that "the success rate was about half that of
regular students" (qtd. in O'Neal 69). From this study we learn that admissions by race do not
ensure success for minority students. With Governor Bush's ONE FLORIDA plan, statistics
such as these would become obsolete as students are better prepared for and more successful in
the postsecondary and graduate systems.
With success in school comes the hope of success in the work place. With the
implementation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination in the work place
ended. Farrell Bloch, an economic and statistical consultant in Washington D.C., summarizes
Title VII (as amended) as "the prohibition of discrimination against individuals on grounds of
race, color, religion, sex, or national origin by private, state, and local government employers
with atleast fifteen employees" (49). The practice of reverse-discrimination by employers hiring
applicants based on race, gender and national origin will diminish as ONE FLORIDA opens the
door of opportunity equally to both black and white men and women. This is not to say that the
practice of set asides, preferences, and quotas will be completely eliminated. According to
Senator Steven Geller, an advocate of anti-affirmative action, "these hiring practices were
always on a voluntary basis in Florida. It has been up to employers to set quotas... Employers
have an interest in affirmative action because it is fundamentally fair to have a diverse and
representative workforce" (personal interview). In accordance with this theory, Ronald
Anderson and Ivan Fox, co-authors of Business Law & the Legal Environment, claim that
affirmative action plans (AAP's) have been drawn to aid employers in recruiting, hiring and
training minorities and woman, as well as enabling these employees to advance in their
company (757). Anderson and Fox go on to give the criteria for a permissible AAP:
1.The affirmative action should be in connection with a "plan."
2.There must be a showing that affirmative action is justified as a remedial measure.
The plan must be remedial to open opportunities in occupations closed to the
protected classes of Title VII or designed to break down old patterns of racial
segregation and hierarchy.
3.The plan must be voluntary.
4.The plan must not unnecessarily trammel the interests of whites.
5.The plan must be temporary.(757)
The use of AAP's containing quotas, preferences, and quotas have not always met with success.
William Bopp and Donald Schultz, both former California police officers, expand on the
problems with the quota system in their collaboration, Principles of American Law
Enforcement and Criminal Justice:
Police departments are now embarking on extraordinary programs aimed at
recruiting minority-group citizens into law enforcement. Although some would set
strict quotas of black-white ratios on police agencies, quotas have proved in varying
ways, unworkable. Those departments that have experienced success in minority
recruitment have done so not by setting quotas, dropping standards, or instituting
heavy-handed recruitment devices. If an applicant is able to meet strict, but fair
standards, race, creed, and nationality considerations should be ignored. (377)
ONE FLORIDA replaces this out-of-date voluntary program of preferential treatment for one
that expands opportunities for minorities as well as whites and increases diversity without
Governor Bush has put his theory of diversification without the sacrifice of quality into
practice in his own administration. He is committed to hiring both minorities and woman in
high level positions, as shown by his Chief of Staff, General Counsel, Budget Director,Chief
Inspector General, the Director of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development (OTTED)and
the Secretaries of the Departments of Labor, Lottery and Elder Affairs (Equity in Hiring).
Also, hiring in the judiciary will not be affected by ONE FLORIDA as Governor Bush's
appointments of African-Americans and Hispanics already total 40% of all judicial
appointments and women another 40% (Equity in Hiring). Bush's plan is obviously not to take
jobs away from minorities, but to give even more opportunities to them.
Opportunities such as federal and state contracts for minorities will not be hindered by
ONE FLORIDA either. Statistics show that at present "less than 1% of all available state
contracting is done with certified racial and ethnic minority businesses under the current 'goals'
system" (Equity in Contracting). Bush believes that a percentage such as this is low because
few minority businesses in South Florida even bother to go through the state certification
process. The current process for state certification is almost identical to that of the local
process, making it a doubly tedious task to obtain both state and local certifications (ONE
FLORIDA Myths). ONE FLORIDA will streamline the process in order to give minority
businesses the opportunity to participate in state contracting. In addition to streamlining the
application process, the requirements for certification will become less rigid. The Governor has
asked Legislation to "consider using gross sales rather than net worth as the measure of size for
certification" (Improvements to the ONE FLORIDA Initiative). Currently the law sets
certification limits on minority businesses that exceed a net worth of $3 million. These
innovations will hopefully encourage more minorities to apply for certification.
Once certification is no longer an issue, the task of building relationships between
procuring agents and minority businesses must be addressed. One major problem that Bush sees
is that much of Florida's state business is done as a result of long-standing relationships
between State procurement agents and vendors, minority businesses often find it difficult to
break in(Equity in Contracting). Seeing as the bulk of the minority population and its
businesses are located in South Florida, ONE FLORIDA proposes that "by moving the Office
to the Department of Management Services, where the majority of procurement activities take
place, the Office will be more successful in helping procurement agents find and recruit
qualified minority businesses" (Equity in Contracting).
ONE FLORIDA will also improve on financial and technical assistance programs that
aid in the development of minority businesses, minority construction firms, and minority
franchises. Governor Bush will implement what he calls "a 'lending tree' of banks" which
would "form loan pools for contract loans, lines of credit, and capital infusion" (Improvements)
to help develop legitimate minority enterprises. Also being proposed is "a race-neutral program
of assistance to firms in economically disadvantaged areas" (Equity in Contracting). However,
businesses will still be required to prove that they are minority owned, and the penalties for
fraud will be severe and strictly enforced.
Through the many revisions of ONE FLORIDA, non-discrimination still remains a key
point in the program. For instance, the plan calls for "a system that will allow the state to
effectively investigate and punish discrimination by state procurement agents" (Improvements).
The plan goes on to state that "state employees determined to have participated in race or
gender discrimination will undergo disciplinary action, up to and including termination"
(Improvements). In the case of businesses, "[those] found to have filed a complaint of
discrimination in bad faith will be barred from competing for State business for a period not to
exceed five years" (Improvements 3). ONE FLORIDA , although determined to eliminate hiring
and contracting based on race and gender, is designed to still protect the rights of the individual
Opponents of ONE FLORIDA, such as Attorney General Bob Butterworth argue that
any anti-affirmative action plan is still discriminatory and unconstitutional. In a Sun-Sentinel
news article, he is quoted as saying, "the ballot measures' language violates many requirements
constitutional amendments must meet before being put before voters" (qtd. in Kennedy). He
goes on to add, "you must be fair, you cannot deceive the public, and that's what [these
initiatives] do" (qtd. in Kennedy). Butterworth's argument is only valid when discussing the
precise language in ONE FLORIDA. The term "people" is used in its summary, whereas the
term "persons" is used in the text of the document. "Persons" under Florida law can be
considered to include corporations, while "people" may not (Kennedy). Butterworth considers
this "to be another ambiguity that should bar the measures from the ballot" (qtd. in Kennedy).
Butterworth and his supporters are trying to fight the ONE FLORIDA proposition not on the
Constitutional rights of freedom and equality, but on constitutional technicalities. Sun-Sentinel
writer, John Kennedy describes how "the Florida Constitution places strict requirements on
ballot initiatives...the most rigorous is that a measure may encompass only one subject"
(Kennedy). The fact that ONE FLORIDA touches on education employment, and contracting is
enough to give affirmative action supporters the grounds they need to bring their case before the
Florida Supreme Court. However, according to the above news article, 435,329 registered
voters' signatures are needed to place amendments to the Constitution before voters...only
43,500 were collected (Kennedy). Anti-affirmative action advocates have already countered
with the circulation of four petitions: the first initiative bans affirmative action in public
employment, public education, and public contracting, and the other three target individual
areas. Butterworth still contends that " each initiative still violates the single-subject rule" (qtd.
The question of ONE FLORIDA being constitutional or not should not be based on
precise language and technicalities. We live in a country based on the rights of the individual.
Our Bill of Rights is comprised of ideas to protect the average citizen from moral and societal
wrongs. Amendments XV (1870) and XIX (1920) gave the fundamental right to vote to
minorities and women respectively. These amendments furthered the thinking of our forefathers
who founded this country on the beliefs of freedom and equality for all. The creators of the
Constitution modeled it as a "living" document, whereas it could change as society did. In the
1960's and 1970's affirmative action was the right course for our country to take. Discrimination
and segregation ran rampant in those decades and a solution was needed to ensure civil rights
for every American regardless of race, gender, or national origin. Today though, this sort of
thinking is out-of-date as society's views of our diverse population have expanded. We live in a
society now that not only encompasses whites and African-Americans, but persons from every
corner of the world. The gay movement in the United States has provided us with yet another
segment of the population which needs protecting, but none of these groups should ever have
an advantage over another just because they belong to a particular group. America must always
remain diversified in order to remain a world power. Our diversification makes us the beautiful
Melting Pot that the rest of the world looks up to.
With the implementation of ONE FLORIDA in our own South Florida "melting pot",
we will see more diversification and opportunities than ever before. Due to extra funding for
education, standardized tests and practice exams will now be afforded to every high school
student planning to attend college, no matter if they attend an A school or an F school
(Improvements to the ONE FLORIDA Initiative). Programs initiated by Governor Bush will
give children the motivation to improve themselves in school, instead of just "getting by"
because preferential treatment is shown them. Our children will now be received solely on
merit not only in Florida state universities, but universities around the country as well. After
college many opportunities will be available to them in the work force because of ONE
FLORIDA. Quotas by that time will be completely abolished, giving every man and woman an
equal opportunity enter into the career they have been properly prepared for in school. Those
that choose to go into business for themselves will have the backing of the great State of
Florida. Contracting and procurement will be open to all facets of business, especially those that
are minority owned. With ONE FLORIDA also comes "more stringent penalties for
discrimination" (Equity in Contracting). The greatest myth of anti-affirmative action is that
we will return to kind of society we abandoned in the 60' and 70's. ONE FLORIDA will still
provide protection against the archaic thinking of those decades. ONE FLORIDA does not
advocate discrimination, only that race, gender, and national origin should be taken out of the
equation when it comes to education, hiring, and contracting. Governor Bush has come up
with the solution needed in this state without returning to the old-fashioned ideas of quotas,
preferences, and lowering job standards to make all South Floridians equal. There is such a
thing as diversification without discrimination and Bush has done the right thing by following
the anti-affirmative action practices already implemented in other states. Plans in both
California and Texas have already proven to be successful. If ONE FLORIDA makes it to the
ballot this November, Governor Bush, as well as all South Floridians, will be waiting with
bated breath as we see the outcome.
In his own words, Governor Bush states that "there are two paths to diversity in Florida:
diversity can be achieved by preferential treatment or diversity can be achieved by expanding
opportunity, outreach and recruitment. ONE FLORIDA seeks to expand opportunity" (Myths).
Anderson, Ronald A., Ivan Fox, and David P. Twomey. Business Law & the Legal
Environment. Ed. Robert Dewey. 16th ed. Cincinnati, OH: Southwestern Publishing.
Bloch, Farrell. Antidiscrimination Law and Minority Employment. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago
Press. 1994. 48-49, 70.
Bopp, William J., and Donald O. Schultz. Principles of American Law Enforcement and
Criminal Justice. Springfield, IL: Thomas. 1972. 377.
Bush, Jeb. "Equity in Contracting Plan." One Florida. 1999. 10 June 2000
---. "Equity in Education." One Florida. 1999. 10 June 2000 *http://www.flgov.com*.
---. "Equity in Hiring." One Florida. 1999. 10 June 2000 *http://www.flgov.com*.
---. "ONE FLORIDA Myths." 1999. 10 June 2000 *http://www.flgov.com*.
---. "Improvements to the ONE FLORIDA Initiative." One Florida. 2000. 10 June 2000
Geller, Steven. Personal interview. 9 June 2000.
Kennedy, John. "Top Lawyer Says Ballot Items Illegal." Sun-Sentinel 24 Nov. 1999: 6B.
O'Neil, Robert M. Discriminating Against Discrimination. Ontario: Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Limited. 1985. 68-69.
Skrentny, John David. The Ironies of Affirmative Action. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
Thesis: Recently Governor Bush has pushed for the passage of a plan he calls ONE FLORIDA,
an executive order to abolish affirmative action in the state of Florida. Through the
history of affirmative action in our country and its ensuing abolition, politicians and
society at large are ever debating the merits of a racially based admissions, hiring, and
I.The term affirmative action predates the civil rights movement.
II.Governor Bush's Talented 20 program guarantees admission to Florida state universities
to the top 20% of graduating classes.
III.It is a proven fact that students who are not properly prepared for postsecondary
education do not fare well.
IV.With success in school, comes the hope of success in the work place.
V.Governor Bush has put his theory of diversification without the sacrifice of quality into
practice in his own administration.
VI. The problems of certifications and procurements in contracting must be addressed.
VII.Through the many revisions of ONE FLORIDA, non-discrimination still remains a key
point of the program.
VIII.Opponents of ONE FLORIDA that any anti-affirmative action plan is both
discriminatory and unconstitutional.
IX.Our Bill of Rights is comprised of ideas to protect the average citizen from moral and
X.With the implementation of ONE FLORIDA, we will see more diversification and
opportunities than ever before.