Charles Dudley Warner infamously said, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” What if I told you that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and current president of the U.S. President Obama agree on more than they probably disagree when it comes to policy issues?
I certainly haven’t talked to Gov. Bush of late or maybe I never have, but I know that he also has strong ties to the Hispanic community and believes in immigration reform – much like our President.
But immigration isn’t the topic of the day. The topic is education and why “Common Core standards” is such a hot issue in Florida. President Obama is a major supporter of Common Core, and so is Gov. Bush although many Republican-led groups are coming out against the standards.
So what’s the big deal? Well in education – the word accountability and terminology like “measureable outcomes” is talked about as much as Jesus is in the Baptist church. No jab at good old Baptist folks – I love me some Jesus too.
But accountability in education makes a lot of sense, where Democrats and Republicans normally differ is on the policies or politics used to measure success in education.
In the past, Republicans have pointed the finger at teachers for our public school challenges and have focused legislative efforts on ending long-term teacher contracts and creating policies that base teacher accountability on unreliable standardized tests.
Of course, all of these anti-teacher policies will help our children learn better because teachers will be more “accountable.” Interestingly enough, accountability is important everywhere in education except for schoolvoucher programs. Republicans and voucher supporters refuse to institute the same accountability standards on programs that take public dollars and fund private school vouchers.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand, what is Common Core? Well according to The Foundation for Florida’s Future, which was founded by Gov. Bush, “Common Core State Standards are a state-led effort to establish clear world-class educational standards for English language arts and mathematics that states can voluntarily adopt.”
Continued, “Common Core standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to go to college or enter the workforce and that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.”
Common Core started out as a joint project by officials in about four dozen states, but the implementation of the standards has divided the Republican Party. Many conservatives, especially those who associate more with the Tea Party, have grown worried that the standards will lead to unprecedented federal intrusion in local schools.
For those who have been promoting the values of school accountability, Common Core makes sense and maybe the best option available to provide clear measurable standards.
Supporters of the standards insist that the new benchmarksonly outline what students are expected to learn, while curriculum is still controlled at the local level.
The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit bearing entry courses in two or four year college programs or enter the workforce. The standards are clear and concise to ensure that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of the expectations in reading, writing, speaking and listening, language, and mathematics in school.
National and state teacher’s unions are backing Common Core. Again, talk about an unholy alliance. In the past, the accountability folks and teacher’s union have been at odds over most educational issues. But both groups seem to agree that the standards establish what students need to learn, but they do not dictate how teachers should teach.
Unions say that under Common Core, teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms. They also point out that the standards drafting process relied on teachers and standards experts from across the country.
This move came on the heels of a vote by a caucus of the Republican Party of Florida’s state committeemen and committeewomen backing a resolution opposing the Common Core standards.
A year later and the Common Core battle is still a very relevant and heated issue.
Now the question at hand is whose politics ultimately wins out?
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right,” said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Signing off from the Florida Capital,