Florida Gubernatorial Candidate Vows to Stop Common Core

By Stephen Sawchuk — September 18, 2018 3 min read
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Just as all the drama around the Common Core State Standards was starting to seem passé, there’s the potential for it to raise its head again in a closely watched political contest.

About a month ago, Republican gubernatorial norminee Ron DeSantis resurfaced the issue in a Tweet calling for the end of the standards in Florida. And hiscampaign site states crisply: Stop Common Core.

Other than that remark, DeSantis has not elaborated much about how he would pursue this goal if he won the contest, or where it would fall on his list of priorities.

The common-core standards debuted in 2010. But politicans began calling for states to dump them after the federal government gave states incentives to adopt the standards. Teachers struggling with a lack of appropriate materials and looming tests tied to the standards pushed back, too. Many states subsequently replaced or renamed them, though several dozen still use the standards or close copies of them.

In the Sunshine State, reading and math expectations are now simply called the Florida Standards—but the state appears to have kept most common-core content while adding some pieces, including a cursive writing mandate and some calculus expectations. The state was not among those included in a review of states that had made the “most substantive changes” to the expectations released last month by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

In general, much of the political brouhaha around the common core seems to have faded, though a recent poll by the journal Education Nextfound that the term “common core” still fares much more poorly in opinion polls than the concept of shared reading and math standards.

DeSantis’ campaign spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a message left for her at Republican party headquarters in Florida.

But if education gets an airing in the next few months, common core could be among the topics. And many eyes are on this race, especially after Andrew Gillum pulled out a surprising win in the Florida Democratic gubernatorial primary. The promise of a gubernatorial battle between a Republican who has embraced President Trump’s rhetoric facing off against a Democrat who has received the blessing of Bernie Sanders, the standard-bearer of the progressive wing of the party, is irresistible. It’s also being viewed as as bellwether for the 2018 midterms and beyond.

Gillum’s campaign site is more detailed on education policy than DeSantis’, but it doesn’t mention the standards. Gillum does, however, criticize high-stakes testing.

Jeffrey Henig, a professor of public policy and education at Teachers College, Columbia University, said DeSantis could be hoping to energize core Republican voters with the reference to the standards. “If DeSantis believes that his main goal is turning out Republicans, it’s possible including it in his platform could help, tied to a broader message about resistance to interference from Washington, D.C.,” he said.

It seems less likely to appeal to other voters who don’t follow the topic that closely (other than teachers, who lean Democratic), Henig noted, but that also means that there’s probably little downside to revisiting the issue.

Ron DeSantis, Republican candidate for Florida Governor, waits for the start of a news conference after an airboat tour of the Florida Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.—Wilfredo Lee/AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.