Chiropractic school to get final hearing


Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 11:48 p.m.
The Florida Chiropractic Association will try to show that the state is home to far fewer chiropractors than previously thought as part of a last-minute push to convince the state's higher education governing board that it should approve a chiropractic school at Florida State University.
Florida's Board of Governors meets Thursday at the University of Florida to decide if it makes sense to spend $60 million on a chiropractic school, which would be the first state-run school in the nation.
While it remains unclear what the board will do, members will weigh if there are enough chiropractic graduates to supply the state into the future and if a new school is the best use of money in a state already confronting a steady rise in education costs.
"Our mission is to determine the value of it to the state university system," said Carolyn Roberts, chairwoman of the Board of Governors.
It won't be debating the merits of the profession, Roberts said.
Yet, contradictory statistics may muddy the decision-making process.
A state Department of Education report shows Florida ranked third in the nation in 2003 with 4,687 licensed chiropractors. It also indicates existing chiropractic colleges train enough for the future.
But the chiropractors' association thought the numbers were inflated by former chiropractors retiring to Florida and retaining an active license. It now may have proof.
The number of chiropractors in the state, according to the Department of Health, dropped by 814 last year when renewal fees rose to a high of nearly $900. The new numbers drop the ratio of chiropractors to residents to below - not above - the national average, the association suggests. And that may add a new dimension to the discussion.
"We are just trying to make sure the decision is made on real data - that is current," said Jack Hebert, director of government relations for the Florida Chiropractic Association.
Working against the chiropractic school is a forecast from the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation that shows a need for 108 new chiropractors each year to keep up with population growth through 2011.
Palmer College in Port Orange is expected to graduate 150 students in 2006 and 188 a year by 2007 - more than covering the need.
At the same time, some medical doctors at FSU have threatened to leave the university should the chiropractic school - merely a venue to foster pseudo-science, they have said - garner approval.
UF's medical community has remained mum on the school.
Powerful lawmakers have not. Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, an FSU grad who pushed through the Legislature an allocation of $9 million a year for the school, and state Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island, who is a chiropractor, have been vocal about their support for the program.
Some legislators even threatened those with thoughts of overturning a Legislative decision with budget repercussions.
As it is now, only FSU's chiropractic school appears in budget jeopardy. Gov. Jeb Bush slashed funding for the chiropractic school from $9 million passed by the Legislature to $1.5 million in his 2004-2005 proposed budget.
It's not even clear if FSU's board of trustees favor the new school. The board voted Jan. 14 to forward the chiropractic school proposal to the Board of Governors without endorsing it.
Members of the medical and chiropractic communities are expected to turn up for what could turn into a colorful discussion.
"It's going to be fun," Roberts said. The meeting is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Reitz Union.
Janine Young Sikes can be reached at 337-0327 or sikesj@gvillesun.com.

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