Tea Party and parent groups protest Common Core in Tallahassee

Published Sept. 26, 2013

TALLAHASSEE — Despite Gov. Rick Scott's efforts to assuage concerns, opposition to the new education standards known as the Common Core isn't dying down.

Representatives from three dozen tea party and parent organizations journeyed to the Capitol on Wednesday to lobby against the benchmarks, which are already being taught in schools statewide.

They thanked Scott for pulling out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a multistate consortium crafting tests around the Common Core standards, and for ordering a series of public hearings on the standards over the next month. But they insisted more dramatic steps were necessary.

"What we want is to take out the Common Core 100 percent," said Thais Alvarez, a Miami-Dade teacher.

The Common Core standards outline what students should know at each grade level. They were created by the National Governors Association and approved in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Supporters, including former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush and the Obama administration, say the new standards will ensure that kids nationwide receive a high-quality education. But opponents say decisions about education should be left to state and local governments, and have voiced concerns about the security of student data.

Scott has not been clear on his position.

He signed an executive order Monday calling for three public hearings and new safeguards for student data. But when asked Tuesday if the standards were in jeopardy, Scott said: "A lot of people want to say, 'Is it yes or no to Common Core?' That's not the right way of looking at it. It's yes to high standards because that's what's going to pay off in a global economy, and we say no to federal intrusion."

Critics have found a champion in state Rep. Debbie Mayfield, a Vero Beach Republican who has filed a proposal to stop Florida's participation in the Common Core.

On Wednesday, Mayfield said she wasn't sure if the bill would get a hearing. A legislative proposal must receive committee assignments to become law.

House Education Committee Chairwoman Marlene O'Toole, R-Lady Lake, said she would need more information on the standards before deciding whether her panel would hear the bill.

O'Toole wouldn't say if she was committed to keeping the standards in place.

"I'm committed to seeing what the next 30 days hold," she said, referencing the window Scott has allowed for the public hearings.

Senate leaders were more firm.

"We're open to strengthening (the standards), but there is no road to retreat," said Senate Education Committee Chairman John Legg, R-Trinity.

So far, no member of the upper chamber has filed a companion to Mayfield's bill. Legg said he wasn't expecting one.

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"We've been trying to provide (senators) with as much information as possible and answer any questions they might have," Legg said. "I've not seen any pushback on the standards themselves."

Still, the parents, teachers and tea party activists who made the trip to Tallahassee on Wednesday weren't ready to give up.

"You have hundreds of thousands of voters who are really concerned about this," said Randy Osborne of the Florida Eagle Forum. "As the legislators go to their constituents, that's what they will hear."

Kathleen McGrory can be reached at