Florida House and Senate Bill Allows Schools to Write Own Academic Standards

Florida’s Historic Capitol and Current State Capitol Building in Tallahassee, FL.
Photo Credit: Michael Rivera (CC-By-SA 3.0)

A bill filed in the Florida House and in the Florida Senate allows Florida school districts to write their own standards provided they are equivalent to or better than the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. Florida’s current standards which the bills would make the minimum baseline were the product of a review and revision of the Common Core State Standards.

Essentially, the revisions made stayed with the 15 percent threshold allowed by the National Governor’s Association and Council of Chief State School Officers. They did put cursive back in their standards, and the Florida State Board of Education in 2013 rejected the Common Core appendices.

Even so, the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards are still functionally Common Core just like every other state we’ve seen pursue the “review and revise” method of addressing them.

State Representative Charlie Stone (R-Ocala) introduced House Bill 825 in the Florida House. The co-introducers are State Representatives Stan McClain (R-Belleview) and George Moraitis, Jr. (R-Fort Lauderdale). The Florida Senate companion bill Senate Bill 966 was introduced by State Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) and it is co-introduced by State Senator Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach).

The bill says a school district’s standards must “(b)e equivalent to or more rigorous than the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards, or courses offered in the district for the International Baccalaureate program. Instructional materials adopted pursuant to these standards must be consistent with school district goals and objectives and the course descriptions established in rule by the State Board of Education.”

It also reads:

Curricular content for all subjects must integrate knowledge-based learning, critical-thinking, and problem-solving, and workforce-literacy skills; communication, reading, and writing skills; mathematics skills; collaboration skills; contextual and applied-learning skills; technology literacy skills; information and media-literacy skills; and the demonstrable, in-depth understanding of the founding values and principles of the United States as required by s. 1003.42

The bill states all standards whether the school adopts the state’s current standards or adopts higher ones they must meet the following requirements:

(a) English Language Arts standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language which significantly improves student outcomes.

(b) Science standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, the nature of science, earth and space science, physical science, and life science. Controversial theories and concepts must be taught in a factual, objective, and balanced manner.

(c) Mathematics standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability, number and quantity, functions, and modeling.

(d) Social Studies standards must establish specific curricular content for, at a minimum, geography, United States and world history, government, civics, humanities, and economics, including financial literacy. Financial literacy includes the knowledge, understanding, skills, behaviors, attitudes, and values that will enable a student to make responsible and effective financial decisions on a daily basis. Government and civics content must strictly adhere to the founding values and principles of the United States as required under s. 1003.42. Financial literacy instruction must shall be an integral part of instruction throughout the entire economics course to and include the study of at least Keynesian and Hayekian economic theories, in addition to understanding the basics of information regarding earning income; buying goods and services; saving and financial investing; taxes; the use of credit and credit cards; budgeting and debt management,including student loans and secured loans; banking and financial services; planning for one’s financial future, including higher education and career planning; credit reports and scores; and fraud and identity theft prevention.

(e) Visual and performing arts, physical education, health, and foreign language standards must establish specific curricular content and include distinct grade level expectations for the core content knowledge and skills that a student is expected to have acquired by each individual grade level from kindergarten through grade 5. The standards for grades 6 through 12 may be organized by grade clusters of more than one grade level.

Here are the reporting requirements the bill gives:

The district school superintendent shall annually certify to the department that all instructional materials for core courses used by the district are aligned with all applicable state standards, including those that are equivalent to or more rigorous than the applicable state standards or are aligned with courses offered in the district for the International Baccalaureate program; and have been reviewed, selected, and adopted by the district school board in accordance with the school board hearing and public meeting requirements of this section.

The bill does not explicitly give the state the authority to reject the annual certification or whether or not they can determine whether a school’s standards are in fact higher.  There could be an administrative rule that does, but I don’t see any language indicating that in this bill.

Should the bill pass it would go into effect on July 1, 2018.

Note: I’ve reached out to State Senator Mayfield’s office for background on the bill, as well as, Karen Effrem with the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition to get her thoughts on this bill. I’ll update when I have additional information.

Update: Sue Woltanski, a parent in Florida told me she suspected the bill had to do with Hillsdale College’s Classical Curriculum. She wrote to me in an email, “The economic theories mentioned (the study of at least Keynesian and Hayekian economic theories), I believe, is a priority of Hillsdale College. Our House Speaker (Corcoran) and a few legislators (specifically Rep.. Donalds) are closely tied to Classical Charters, associated with Hillsdale. “

Karen Effrem also got to me. “The purpose is to allow districts to write their own standards with the Common Core as the floor instead of the ceiling. So they use what they want if anything from Common Core, but still, give the appearance of using CC so as not to get the state’s or feds’ undies in a twist about rejecting the standards,” she said in an email.

Florida Anti-Common Core Activists Win Major Victories

Florida State Flag

Despite literally millions of pro-Common Core dollars from the corporate and government education establishment, grassroots anti-Common Core parents fighting the inferior standards; federal overreach; invasive, punitive, tyrannical, and validity challenged testing; and data mining scored some impressive victories in the Florida primary elections for state legislative, school board, and superintendent. The iron grip of Jeb Bush’s political and policy influence may finally be starting to loosen. Regardless of their records, politicians clamored to portray themselves as anti-Common Core. The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition’s (FSCCC) grassroots voter guides, profiled at Truth in American Education were an attempt to separate the rhetoric from the records.  The incredible grassroots work of many of our key partners and allies at The Tea Party Network, Liberty First, the Republican Liberty Caucus, Florida Citizens’ Alliance, and Florida Parents Against Common Core  with ratings, endorsements, forums, and interaction on Common Core and other important issues as well as great efforts by our supporters were very successful in several major races.

Here is a brief recap of results for some of the races we evaluated with more detail available HERE:

Anti-Common Core Leader Victorious Despite Establishment Onslaught:

This race was a stellar example of how courage, integrity, authentic efforts against Common Core, and grassroots support can win elections against great odds. Rep. Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach) has been the standard bearer in Florida against the invasive and ineffective Common Core system for the last three years, often standing alone against the special interest groups and the education establishment in her own party and caucus, receiving the grade of A++ in our ratings. That was the highest grade received by any legislator reviewed by FSCCC. Her work has been nationally recognized by national partner groups like Truth in American Education and the American Principles Project. Her efforts even incited the fury of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s future giving her a D one year in their ratings, which FSCCC viewed as a badge of honor. She won this Republican primary for the Florida Senate 42%  to 35% despite being out raised basically 2:1 by her opponent, Rep. Ritch Workman, who spent $1.2 million raised by himself and received from PACs in an effort to defeat her.

Workman had the backing & funding of the very pro-Common Core Florida Chamber of Commerce and outgoing Speaker of the House, unofficially from Governor Scott who made robo calls on his behalf, and a slew of lobbyists. Workman used those funds to make vicious and unfounded attacks against Mayfield and her family. The negativity was off putting. In addition, Workman made the huge mistake of making false statements about his work against Common Core that were called out by this organization as well as multiple media sources. Unable to stand up to scrutiny, Workman blocked this author and FSCCC from his Twitter account and refused to answer media inquiries about the matter. In the end, as in the case of Jeb Bush, lots of money could not overcome “Mama Bear” parental fury against Common Core proponents and deceivers who behaved so badly against the heroine of the movement here in Florida.

Deceit on Anti-Common Core Record Brought Down the Establishment Favorite

This five-way race featured two candidates that were highly rated in our FSCCC voter guides, Rep. Ray Pilon who had sponsored or co-sponsored many anti-Common Core bills, and Rep. Greg Steube, who had broad-based conservative support from several of our anti-Common Core allies.  The other legislator candidate, former Rep. Doug Holder had the backing of the Chamber and the governor, with the Chamber spending huge amounts of money trying to take Steube out. However, Holder made the same mistake that Workman did – false statements about his anti-Common Core efforts, earning him an F in our voter guide. We believe our voter guide and information about Holder’s false statements were a key factor in this race. In July, Holder was leading the race by 6 points over Steube. After the media reports about the Common Core falsehood and our voter guides were released in August, Steube was leading and Holder fell to third place.  Steube ended up winning the race, despite the huge amounts of money for negative ads and mailers thrown at him by the Establishment forces, with Holder coming in second. We congratulate Rep. Steube on his victory and if he wins against Democrat Professor Frank Alcock who has stated his concern about too much testing, look forward to working with him as he follows through on his pledge to introduce anti-Common Core legislation. Rep. Pilon is to be heartily commended and thanked for his many anti-Common Core efforts.

Chairwoman of the House Education Committee and Major Florida Common Core Architect Fails to Advance to the Senate

This race in central Florida featured two veteran legislators, Rep. Dennis Baxley who we rated with a D for some deceptive but not outright false mailers and Rep. Marlene O’Toole, outgoing chairwoman of the House Education Committee, whom we had given an F grade. O’Toole had promoted and moved every major piece of major Common Core legislation since the standards were adopted in 2010, including deceptively removing the name of Common Core from Florida statute and blocked every bill promoting parental rights and local control, especially by Rep. Mayfield.  Businessman David Gee, received an A- rating for giving so much of his own time and treasure for this race, as well as solidly understanding the dangers of the Common Core system. The Common Core aspect of the race and our voter guides were covered both locally and in large media markets like Miami. Gee split the anti-Common Core vote with Baxley, almost allowing O’Toole to win, but in the end Baxley won by about 700 votes, keeping the “Queen of Common Core” from advancing to the Senate. Gee ran a good race, but because he was a political newcomer against two well-known officials, there was too much name recognition and too many connections to overcome.  After congratulating Senator-elect Baxley who will not face any Democrat opposition in November, we hope he will authentically challenge Common Core and federal overreach during his senate tenure as he portrayed in his campaign literature.

Florida’s Common Core Re-Brand Became an Issue in a Hard Fought House Race

Two candidates fought it out in the Sarasota area. Steve Vernon, former chairman of Tea Party Manatee, received an A grade from us while Joe Gruters received a D-. The low grade was for being one of the first officials, as a trustee of Florida State University and Sarasota County Republican chairman, to suggest that the name of Common Core be changed to avoid parental fury. Governor Scott followed this suggestion a few months later, making Florida one of the first states to do the “Common Core Re-Brand.” Gruters was supported by the Chamber of Commerce and had many political connections resulting in him being expected to easily win the seat. However Vernon ran a very strong race, contributing much of his own treasure to stand for freedom. Our voter guides and analysis about the re-brand statements became an issue toward the end. Gruters won the race, but only by 382 votes. If Mr. Gruters, who is a heavy favorite, is successful in November in a very Republican district, we hope that he will drop the re-branding maneuvers and stick with some of the good things he did to fight Common Core after that 2013 summit.

Other Important Outcomes – Here are few other races that FSCCC did not directly rate, but where our information was used and or Common Core was a significant issue.

Outgoing House K-12 Subcommittee Chairwoman Defeated in County Superintendent Race by 2:1 Margin

Rep. Janet Adkins fulfilled the analogous role of implementing Common Core on the House K-12 subcommittee level that Marlene O’Toole fulfilled on the full education committee. In fact, she was the primary House author of the deceptive Common Core re-brand bill.  Local activists used our information and that from other anti-Common Core groups to educate the voters.   

Anti-Common Core Activist Able to Win Chamber Endorsement & Be Victorious

Financial adviser Byron Donalds running in the Republican primary for FL HD 80 in Collier & Hendry Counties and wife Erika who sits on the Collier School Board (Naples area) have been stalwart anti-Common Core  fighters for several years. Despite that opposition, he was able to win the Florida Chamber of Commerce endorsement and win his race handily. Perhaps his victory will allow him to warn local business people and even the state business group about the dangers of Common Core to academic skills and an educated workforce.

Common Core an Issue in Many School Board Races

Whether candidates won or lost, Common Core remained an important topic in many school board races across the state. While there were anti-Common Core victories, there were other cases where unions, charter school companies, or textbook interests intervened on behalf of the pro-Common Core candidates.  This is a mixed bag.

We hope that these victories are inspiring and that the defeats are instructive and that legislative leaders in Florida and across the nation understand that the anti-Common Core parent movement is powerful and not going away even in Jeb Bush’s Florida. We also hope that parents across the nation will continue to stay involved at every level of government that they can to protect the hearts, minds, futures, and privacy of our precious children and that they may still obtain “education for a free nation.” Thank you for everything you do!

Florida Stop Common Core Coalition Announces Ratings in Key Florida Races

Florida State Flag
The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition (FSCCC), an organization of fifty grassroots and parent groups from all over Florida, is pleased to announce the release of six Common Core and related education voter guides from six key contested primaries. The guides consist of detailed information about and links to candidates’ statements and records regarding the inferior Common Core standards, validity challenged high stakes assessments, data mining, and career tracking, as well as what they would do about it (see below). The races chosen are those where candidates have worked really hard against this dangerous system, publicly promised to work against it, or promoted it while making false claims of working against it.

“Our grading system, just like that in schools, rewards hard work and punishes deception,” FSCCC Executive Director, Dr. Karen Effrem explained. “We are grateful to Rep. Debbie Mayfield (A++), a national leader, and Rep. Ray Pilon (A+) for their incredible work against this terrible system. We also really appreciate legislators like Rep. Greg Steube and Rep. Matt Hudson, who even though they have been working in other important areas of public policy, are courageous enough to pledge to stand against special interests to fight Common Core. In addition, we are thankful for candidates like Ms. Laurie Bartlett, Mr. David Gee, and Mr. Steve Vernon giving so much of their time and treasure to protect the hearts and minds of our children.”

“At the same time, it is critical that promotion of this system and deceit about records not be rewarded. We want our supporters to be informed.” continued Effrem. “The actions, campaign materials, of Reps. Workman (F), O’Toole (F), Passidomo (D), Baxley (D), former Rep. Holder (F), and candidate Gruters (D-) are incredibly disappointing and dangerous.

Here is one example of that kind of deception with Joe Gruters being among the first to float the idea of the deceptive Common Core rebrand during the governor’s 2013 summit:


Dr. Effrem concluded, “We as parents and grandparents cannot and will not tolerate Common Core deceit because the actions of these public officials have such enormous impact on the futures and privacy of our children” 

The races are listed below:

SENATE DISTRICT 12: Dennis Baxley (D)  David Gee  (A-) Marlene O’Toole (F)

SENATE DISTRICT 17: Debbie Mayfield (A++) Michael Thomas (C+) Amy Tidd (C-) Ritch Workman (F) 

SENATE DISTRICT 23: Frank Alcock (C) Frank Cirillo (C-) Doug Holder (F) Rick Levine(B-) Nora Patterson (C-) Ray Pilon (A+) Greg Steube (B+)

SENATE DISTRICT 28: Matt Hudson (B+) Kathleen Passidomo (D) 

 HOUSE DISTRICT 4: Laurie Bartlett (A) Wayne Harris (C-) Armand Izzo (B-) Mel Ponder(C-) Jonathan Tallman (C)  

HOUSE DISTRICT 73: Joe Gruter (D-) Steve Vernon (A)