The Anti-Common Core Resolution, the Collier School Board and the State Legislature

At the January 13th School Board meeting, Board members Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter sought to have an anti-Common Core resolution put on the School Board agenda.

I have written about this resolution before. Here in Collier County, groups led by the Southwest Florida Citizens Alliance and the Libertarian Party of Collier County have been working to have it adopted by the Marco Island City Council (which defeated the resolution last week), the Naples City Council, the Collier Board of County Commissioners (see previous post), as well as the Collier School Board. The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition includes several Collier County groups including the Libertarian Party of Collier County, the Southwest Florida Citizens Alliance, Florida Eagle Forum, the Collier Tea Party, the Tea Party Network, and more.

In response to the request to put the resolution on the agenda, School Board member Roy Terry pointed out that the Board had, following existing procedure, already adopted its 2015 legislative platform, and that it had also participated in developing the Florida School Boards Association’s legislative platform. Board Chair Kathy Curatolo, also referring to the existing procedure, declined to put the resolution on the Board’s agenda.

Ms. Donalds then said that since she was not on the Board when its 2015 platform was adopted, she wanted the platform itself brought back for further discussion. That item is on the agenda for next Tuesday’s School Board meeting.

Collier School Board’s Legislative Platform
So let’s look at that 2015 Legislative Platform, which was adopted unanimously by the School Board at its August 12, 2014, meeting.

Five legislative priorities are listed.

The first reflects the Board’s concerns about high-stakes testing. It asks the Legislature to “Modify the transition timeline for full implementation of the new educational accountability system until July 1, 2017 in order to provide necessary time for … the implementation of Florida standards, … the development of a robust technology infrastructure to support online testing and digital instructional materials, and … the valid and appropriate development/use of new state and local student assessment results for personnel evaluations, performance pay, and school grading.”

The second concerns the academic calendar. It asks the Legislature to repeal the law (1001.42 (4)(f) F.S.) prohibiting schools from starting earlier than 14 days prior to Labor Day to allow local flexibility to select the opening date for school. (This year, with Labor Day on September 7, the law makes it impossible for students to have their exams before the winter holiday break. I’ve heard that this provision was put in the law to benefit Disneyworld and the businesses along the I–4 corridor which rely on student workers during the busy summer months.)

The rest are requests for funding:

  • “Restore funding for courses beyond a base 6-period/1.0 FTE day … so that students can meet requirements for advanced study and industry certified programs without financially penalizing school districts.”
  • “Create and fully fund a separate categorical program exclusively for the 300 low (reading) performing elementary schools requiring an extra hour of intensive reading instruction so that funding follows the identified students/schools and is not mixed with other categorical programs.”
  • “Address concerns with capital outlay funding by restoring the .5 mill levy that school boards had up until 2008–09 …, by identifying new state revenue streams for public school construction, remodeling, upkeep and maintenance, life-safety and technology, and by increasing the cap placed on the use of capital outlay tax for insurance and vehicles … based on the rising costs of insurance.”

What Legislative priorities have other Florida education experts set?
The Florida School Boards Association (FSBA)’s 2015 legislative platform includes the items prioritized by the Collier School Board, plus more. But it says nothing about Common Core.

The Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards’ 2015 legislative program includes among its priority goals “Ensure that, in all cases, legislation be evaluated to provide that it does not conflict with the constitutional and home rule authority of school boards to ‘operate, control, and supervise’ all public schools within their school districts,” as well as funding, accountability and high-stakes testing. But it too says nothing about Common Core.

The Florida Association of District School Superintendents’ 2015 legislative platform generally focuses on the same issues as our local School Board and the FSBA: funding and high-stakes testing, but says nothing about Common Core. With respect to the Florida State Standards, it says:

“Superintendents strongly support the Florida State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics.”

The Florida Education Association (teachers’ union) says, “Parents who understand Common Core are better able to help their child learn.” In a section on its website called Common Core Help for Parents, it lists these “Common Core Facts:”

  • “This is not a federal mandate or curriculum. These are state standards which means each state could choose whether or not to adopt them. Teachers actually have a little more flexibility in their teaching.”
  • “Common Core isn’t going to take away local control. The standards aren’t a curriculum which means that states and local districts still get to decide how they’ll meet the standards.”
  • “You will feel some shifts… and that’s a good thing! Finally, an opportunity to return critical thinking and reasoning to the teaching and learning process. Parents will begin to notice their child working through more complex problems, and you’ll enjoy watching them read both fiction and non-fiction.”

In summary, I have found no professional association of Florida educators that has asked the Legislature to repeal Common Core or expressed any concern about the Florida State Standards.

Call to Action
Next Tuesday’s School Board meeting is likely to be another long one, with many public speakers urging the School Board to add anti-Common Core language to its 2015 Legislative Platform.

Please be there to show your support for Superintendent Patton and the Board members who don’t want to add anti-Common Core changes to the District’s Legislative priorities.

Urge them to listen to Florida’s educators, who are the experts who know what they need from our state Legislature. A small but vocal ideologically-motivated group of non-educators don’t.

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