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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Fla GOP leaders denounce Common Core

11

January

News Service of Florida:

A gathering of Republican Party of Florida activists voted Friday evening to oppose the Common Core education standards in a sign of growing anger among the party's grass-roots members over the school benchmarks.

The resolution, which was approved by a caucus of state committeemen and committeewomen as part of the run-up to Saturday's annual party meeting, is not binding on the GOP.

RPOF officials, speaking on background, quickly moved to downplay the significance of the vote against the guidelines, which have support from members of the school-accountability movement led by former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.

But the vote also seemed to show that resistance to the standards has not died down since Gov. Rick Scott ordered the state Department of Education to begin backing away from a test based on Common Core and to review the standards.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said this week that the State Board of Education will soon consider 40 changes to the standards -- most of which would add new material. The changes have not yet been released by Stewart's agency.

Discussion at Friday's meeting, though, mostly centered around some conservatives' concerns that the standards would mark an unprecedented federal intrusion into education, despite the fact that the development of Common Core was spearheaded by officials from about four dozen states.

Mary Ann Russell, the state committeewoman from St. Lucie County, said Republican activists who worked to elect Scott in 2010 were opposed to the standards.

"They are dead-set against this massive federal government overtake of our education system," Russell said. "And where we're heading is to a very socialist country."

Eric Miller, the committeeman from Martin County, said the caucus could begin to "run this progressive element out of our party and out of this country" by voting for the resolution.

"Folks, once they've got the kids, and they've got their minds, you might as well sit down; it's over from there," he said.

But opponents of the resolution, including critics of Common Core, said the caucus should focus its efforts less on staking out policy positions and more on electing Republicans.

"This sounds like a school board meeting. ... This is not what our job is," said Deborah Ricks, committeewoman from Clay County.

The RPOF officials said it was unlikely the party's board would take up the issue. Instead, Chairman Lenny Curry is expected to refer the matter to the party's legislative affairs committee.

[Last modified: Sunday, January 12, 2014 1:16pm]

    

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