Tea Party activists and other opponents of Common Core education standards fanned out in the Florida Capitol on Tuesday to buttonhole lawmakers, aides and all who would listen about what they call a “dumbing down” of academic standards in public education – even if that threat is coming from Republican Party standard bearers.
Patricia Sullivan, a Tea Party leader and featured speaker at a small group of Common Core opponents who gathered before visiting offices of senators and representatives in Tallahassee, said the effort is intended to make sure politicians know there are conservatives who are against the state’s implementation of Common Core, despite high-level conservative support for the idea.
Common Core stresses the need for all students to reach widely accepted levels in writing skills and mathematics. The standards, developed by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association, were approved by the Florida Board of Education in 2010.
Other states have followed; now, 45 have adopted Common Core, according to the Common Core State Initiative website, http://www.corestandards.org.
Sullivan said Florida has a chance to learn from other states’ mistakes – especially in the area of costs. During the rally Tuesday, Sullivan said lawmakers should approve an 18-month delay in implementing Common Core in Florida, which is now scheduled for the 2014-15 school year.
That would allow time for a financial analysis, she said, which would prevent local school boards from being forced to come up with money to pay for standards mandated by the state. The state Board of Education has requested more than $400 million to implement Common Core, she told the rally, but the Legislature is considering about $120 million for the effort. County school boards, she said, might be forced to make up the difference.
Major figures in the conservative movement have come out both for and against the standards. Former Gov. Jeb Bush, for instance, is a supporter of the standards while the iconic Heritage Foundation opposes them as an “unprecedented level of centralization.”
Sullivan is nonplussed by the prospect of her current governor, Rick Scott along with Education Commissioner Tony Bennett as well as former Gov. Bush opposing her.
“Even great people have bad ideas,” she said.
She said Scott’s backing for Common Core could hurt him politically among conservatives, already angry at his turnabout on accepting Medicaid funding from the government – an issue that’s dividing the governor from the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.
“I think this will be the end of Governor Scott’s [campaign] to become governor again,” she said.
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