How Much Trouble Will Common Core Cause for Rick Scott's Campaign?
Around the State
Forces opposing Common Core State Standards, Florida Standards or whatever the new, national education assessment standards are called, showed Thursday they weren't blowing smoke when they promised to "sit this election out" if Gov. Rick Scott doesn't reject the standards for Florida.
Tea party groups have already begun organizing email campaigns to reach the governor en masse. "He does an about-face on Common Core or he's history," Marion Clare, a tea party activist from Citrus County told Sunshine State News. "This is very important to us. We won't vote for (Democrat Charlie) Crist, but we won't vote for Rick Scott either."
Though the furor has been building over recent months, it hit a crescendo Tuesday, when the state Board of Education voted to approve nearly 100 changes to Common Core -- none of them drastic -- yet only gave opponents two minutes each at the podium. Clearly opponents believed board members had their minds made up and the governor was in league with them. The crowd grew angrier as the meeting progressed.
At one point, a Common Core opponent turned away from the podium and toward a representative from Scott’s office, vowing that if the governor didn’t oppose the standards, thousands of Floridians wouldn’t be giving their vote to him in November.
“If [Gov. Scott] doesn't firmly stand behind this, I guarantee, the conservatives in this state will sit this election out and he won't get the support … he got last time,” he said. The email drive started from there. In an instant, or so it seemed, Common Core opponents were ready to hit politicians where it hurts: the ballot box.
Without their votes, Scott in particular could be in trouble on Election Day.
Effrem confirmed there was a definite possibility of thousands of voters sitting out or voting down a ticket over Common Core.
Instead of voting for Scott, Effrem also said some may choose to vote for Libertarian Adrien Wylie, who is strongly opposed to Common Core.
“I don’t think it’ll be a huge wave,” she said. “But it could be enough with the polls already close between Gov. Scott and Charlie Crist to cause problems.”
Chris Quackenbush of Stop Common Core FL agreed.
“We will not forgive, nor will we forget, this when we go to the ballot box,” she told Sunshine State News. “I don’t believe (Gov. Scott) is going to have any support from the hardcore conservatives who are typically the stalwart supporters in getting people out to vote … [these conservatives] will not turn out to support him unless he changes his tune immediately.”
The 2010 governor’s race was a nail-biter for Scott, who won by just 61,000 votes out of almost 5.4 million cast. Many political observers feel the 2014 election may be just as close -- and with thousands of potential supporters vowing they simply won’t show up in what’s shaping up to be another close race, Scott should be nervous.
If he is, he isn't saying -- at least not in an octave above his usual talking points. When asked to comment on the possibility of political fallout over Common Core, Scott spokesman John Tupps provided the following statement to SSN:
"The State Board of Education has focused on creating the nation’s highest standards for Florida students so they can get a great job when they graduate."
But Gov. Scott has also shown he's been listening to opponents of the national standards. He used an executive order to pull Florida out of the financial portion of the PARCC assessment test, which is aligned with Common Core. On top of that, he ordered the Department of Education to hold public hearings to gather input and suggestions on how to improve the standards.
Those suggestions yielded nearly 100 proposed changes out of 11,000 total standards.
In January, Scott attempted to placate opponents’ concerns by vowing Florida wouldn’t take orders from the federal government over education, but the fact that he’s still mostly on board with the dusted-up Florida Standards does not sit well with anti-Common Core groups that want them either paused or recalled entirely.
Tuesday’s state meeting in Orlando was a tipping point. It saw an unprecedented intensity as parents, teachers and members of the public showed up and voiced their opposition to the standards loudly and forcefully. Certainly the standards have gathered significant criticism over recent months for what has been called academic inferiority, federal overreach and the possibility of data mining.
It is becoming increasingly clear, though, that these voices will not be silenced and Common Core opponents have no intention of backing down over the issue.
“It’s like Ronald Reagan said: ‘Freedom ... isn’t passed [to our children] in the bloodstream. It must be fought for,’” said Quackenbush. “We intend to do that. I’m not going to ever give up on … the fight, no matter what.”
Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.
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