Unless you've taken a vacation from reading about education this summer, you know that the federally mandated "Common Core" standards that are being implemented into most public school districts around the country have been severely derided by conservatives like Glenn Beck over the past year. But with some governors (like those in Oklahoma & Louisiana) having their state drop those standards due to conservative anger, there has been increasing pressure amongst some in the Tea Party crowd in Florida to force Rick Scott to do the same.
Of course, Scott has already proclaimed that's already happened. "Common Core is out," he said earlier this year. But the fact is that it's simply been rebranded as the "Florida Standards," adding a whole host of items (related to cursive handwriting and calculus instruction) to what is still the Common Core. (Although more liberals are also expressing disdain towards the Common Core, Charlie Crist supports the new standards.)
So while he still must contend with that unhappiness on the political right, he's apparently also heard enough complaining about the intense focus on standardized testing in this state to maybe tweak how that's being run in Florida's public schools. The Associated Press' Gary Fineout reported yesterday that the Governor will announce today that he will direct Education Commissioner Pam Stewart to do a "thorough and comprehensive investigation" of the use of standardized tests that were the centerpiece of the overhaul initiated when Jeb Bush ran Florida. Bush tied the state's A-to-F grading of schools, which includes sanctions and rewards, to how students performed on standardized tests.
And if you've been to any political forum featuring school board candidates this summer (or know a public school teacher), such standardized testing is the bane of nearly all educators' lives these days, regardless of their political stripe. In both Pinellas and Hillsborough County this has become a major theme in the school board races.
Scott's expected announcement today follows last week's stunner, where he promised a $700 million increase to public schools for 2015. Is this a kinder, gentler Rick Scott when it comes to education?
Not really, say Democrats. "He'll flip-flop again on Jeb Bush's Common Core to pander to his Tea Party base," says Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant. "That's why Floridians just don't trust him, and that's why he's spent over a million dollars on polling to find out what to say." But will it sway independent voters in November?
In other news...
First of all, I want to mention the benefit concert taking place tonight for Linda Nash Stevenson at the Palladium in St. Pete. It starts at 7:30 p.m and will help defray medical costs for musician and artist Nash (who is also the mother of CL contributor Arielle Stevenson); if you're in the area, you should drop by.
Yours truly took the Ice Bucket Challenge over the weekend...
There were protests regarding the events in Ferguson, Missouri over the weekend. CL's Ashley Whitney reports on a rally held Saturday in Tampa,
And with the odds of medical marijuana being legalized in Florida looking stronger by the day, so-called "Ganja-preneurs" are flocking to the Sunshine State to convince some citizens how they can make a lot of money out of this new product on the market. On Friday such an event was held in Ybor City. CL's Lauren Prestwood has more on that.