‘Core’ issue trips up state senate hopeful

Ritch Workman has some explaining to do, but he’s not returning calls or email. He and Debbie Mayfield – both Republicans who hold state house seats, both reaching term limits and both running for state Senate District 17 – will face off during the primary election Aug. 30.

Workman bragged in a recent campaign ad that he had “voted to remove Common Core from our schools,” which brought down the wrath of anti-Common Core groups who never saw him in the trenches, pushing for legislation to oust Common Core standards.

Workman appeared clueless when he used the verb “voted.”

Then-Education Commissioner Eric Smith, appointee of the Florida Board of Education, signed off on President Obama’s “Race to the Top” program in 2010, promising to adopt the Common Core standards.

In exchange, the state got $700 million to switch to new standards, new curriculum and new testing. But there was no public hearing, legislation, rule-making or other opportunity to vote for or against anything.

Since his initial gaffe, Workman has posted on his website: “Ritch worked with Governor Rick Scott to issue executive orders severing ties and funding from the Federal education takeover.”

Again, Workman appears clueless. In the first place, it was Scott’s appointees on the Florida Board of Education who approved Eric Smith’s adoption of Common Core. Second, if Workman was even remotely familiar with Scott’s Sept. 23, 2013 executive order addressing educational standards, he wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.

The order renamed Common Core the Florida Standards and dropped the state’s job overseeing the flow of federal funds related to the programs.

But the name change and step back from administering funds is seen as a sham by anti-Common Core forces.

“It’s putting lipstick on a pig,” said Karen Effrem, executive director of Florida Stop Common Core Coalition. “It’s still 99.1-percent Common Core. It’s FED-ED.”

Anti-Common Core school board candidate Laura Zorc said Scott didn’t pivot away from the federal government and claim he cared about local input until he got hurricane-level political blowback. Scott then held after-the-fact public hearings and an education summit and issued the executive order, but it was all for show according to those who oppose federal standards.

Zorc, who is a member of Florida Parents Against Common Core, was appointed by Scott to attend the educational summit. “The changes were minor,” she said. “I was there as the token anti-Common Core person, but everything had already been decided.”

All Scott’s executive order succeeded in doing was shutting down the conversation, said Luz Gonzalez, Florida Parents Against Common Core state director. “You can’t talk about it if you can’t name it Common Core,” she said.

If Workman thinks Scott really excised Common Core from Florida schools, as his website indicates, he’s not explaining how.

Mayfield, on the other hand, has consistently carried the anti-Common Core banner. She authored House Bill 25 two years ago, which sought to stop Common Core standards and assessments from being implemented.

Mayfield’s bill died in the Education Appropriations Subcommittee a year after it was introduced, but did its job, Zorc said, adding pressure and “forcing the conversation about Common Core.”

Mayfield’s bill mandated public hearings be held on the Common Core standards and assessments in every senate district. “You know how many we had?” Mayfield said in disgust. “Three.”

The bill also sought to prevent the state Board of Education from giving power to the federal government ever again, forbidding a contract which “cedes to an outside entity control over curricular standards or assessments.”

Mayfield is currently advocating the education commissioner’s position become an elected one, to break up the coziness among the Board of Education and the Governor’s office, giving citizens a voice.

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