Will Florida continue to be a Common Core state?

Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauJanuary 14, 2014 

Only a handful of people asked questions during Tuesday morning's workshop on the proposed revisions to the Common Core State Standards.

One question was technical, but had political significance.

Susan Pareigis, of The Florida Council of 100, asked if the proposed additions represented more than 15 percent of the total standards. That's important because states can add up to 15 percent of their own benchmarks to the Common Core, and still be considered part of the initiative.

Deputy Chancellor Mary Jane Tappen said the state education department had not done the calculation.

Later, someone asked if Florida would be able to clarify and delete some of the Common Core benchmarks, as the state education department has suggested, or if education officials would be bound by the Common Core copyright.

"The proposed standards are truly our own," Tappen said. "They are Florida Standards, and we are not bound by the copyright."

There is a larger question here: Will Florida continue to be part of the Common Core initiative?

The answer isn't clear.

The words "Common Core" have become a political lightning rod, both in Florida and elsewhere. In some conservative circles, the term is as toxic as "Obamacare." (U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan blamed "political silliness" in a September speech.)

The state Department of Education is clearly taking steps to distance itself from Common Core. For one, the revised benchmarks are being called the "Florida Standards." The phrase "Common Core" seems to have disappeared. It was so conspicuously absent from the October state Board of Education meeting that Chairman Gary Chartrand said, "Common Core Standards is not a dirty word."

But some Tea Party groups, Republican committeemen and parent activists say that isn't enough.

"We must pull out of it completely, get out of the system," said Randy Osborne, a political consultant and co-founder of Florida Stop Common Core Coalition.

Said Martin County Republican Committeeman Eric D. Miller Tuesday: "As an elected Republican Leader, I will do all in my power to aid in this effort so we can finally eradicate Common Core and its like from our State."

State education officials say they won't be focusing on whether the standards are "Common Core" or not.

"The focus is on putting the best standards in place to prepare children for success in college, in career and in life," department spokesman Joe Follick said. "These standards were adopted by the [state Board of Education], subjected to unprecedented public review and will now be voted on again by the [state Board of Education] in February."

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