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Florida has a new plan to rid schools of Common Core, but it’s a secret

Thus far, the governor’s office has declined to release the final standards recommendations to the public.

TALLAHASSEE — Nearly one year ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis started the effort to fix what he said was a crisis looming over how students were taught.

Parents, he said, were telling him that “they had trouble even doing basic math to help their kids” and worse, nobody was listening to them.

In response, DeSantis announced his executive order to eliminate all “vestiges of the Common Core,” the much-derided effort to standardize what K-12 students in the U.S. should know in English and math at the end of each grade level. In his order, DeSantis vowed to review the standards and lay out requirements for instruction.

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At least two drafts of standards recommendations were publicly released. There was parental feedback. Florida Department of Education officials even went on a nine-stop “listening tour” around the state to listen to parents and teachers.

Yet it’s been nearly a week since the Jan. 1 deadline for Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran to submit his finalized recommendations to DeSantis, and the governor’s office still won’t disclose what they are.

The recommendations are "not publicly available at this time," said DeSantis' spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré. "The executive order just required that the recommendations be presented on January 1st ... it's been received and it's being reviewed."

She directed the Times/Herald to file a request with the governor’s office of open government, which said that all requests require review by state lawyers and will be answered “in the order that they are received.” Florida’s Chapter 119 public records law requires no such written requests and states that verbal requests suffice.

A spokeswoman from the Department of Education said they are "actively working" to provide the recommendations to a reporter.

“If you believe in transparency, you believe in transparency — you make everything open,” said Pamela Marsh, president of the First Amendment Foundation, which advocates for open government. (The Tampa Bay Times and the Miami Herald are members of the non-profit).

“They’ve been releasing drafts previously, they’ve been very open about it, so why change now?”

Karen Effrem, who leads the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition and has been closely following the progress of the new proposed standards, said her group is “a bit confused" over recent events. They were expecting a third draft of the recommended standards to be released publicly in December, but so far hasn’t seen those, either.

“I really do want to commend the governor, because he realizes what a critical problem this is and I think the communication just needs to be a little bit better,” she said. “It’s gone too far ... there needs to be more (public comment) before the final draft goes through.”

K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva said in October that the department planned a third set of hearings to gather more public comment after releasing the final draft. One was supposed to be in south Florida, which did not have a stop in the fall listening tour. Those have not occurred.

Just because the governor has the department’s recommendations, that doesn’t mean any changes take immediate effect. The next steps include consultation with the Legislature, and a vote by the Florida Board of Education — most likely including at least one public hearing.

The adoption vote is expected to take place in the spring.