Putting Education Reform To The Test

Central Florida Mom Explains Her Opposition To Common Core

Jordan Michael/StateImpact Florida

Patricia Sullivan speaks during a rally against Common Core at the Capitol. Protesters were asked to lobby legislators about slowing down implementation of the new standards.

A mom of four from Mount Dora is doing her best to convince Florida lawmakers to slow down the Common Core train.

Florida is scheduled to complete the transition to the new academic standards in time for the 2014-15 school year.

Patricia Sullivan home schools her kids and is concerned about the changes home school families may have to make. Students who want to go to college, she said, will have to take Common Core tests.

The two companies which produce the most commonly used college entrance exams, the SAT and ACT, have said they will tie their tests to Common Core standards.

Her work is part of a sudden turn nationally against the Common Core standards, and supporters — such as former Gov. Jeb Bush — who have been leading the effort.

Sullivan gave dozens of protesters gathered at the Capitol this week a pep talk.

“I’ve been getting alerts from organizations such as Americans For Prosperity, FreedomWorks, The Tea Party Network, The Heritage Foundation, ParentalRights.org,” Sullivan said. “Two weeks ago, the Republican National Committee came out with a resolution opposing the implementation of Common Core standards.

“So, if all of these conservative organizations have come out and are alerting citizens to the dangers and the red flags,” Sullivan said, “why is it that we have conservative leadership ramming it through our state legislature? That should cause us to pause.”

Sullivan teared up when she told the group: “At this point in the game I haven’t found a leader in our legislature yet. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a leader that was born to stand for this cause.”

We spoke with Sullivan after the rally.

Q: Common Core has been in the making for a while, so why oppose the standards now when most states are in the process of transitioning to Common Core?

A: When stimulus money was offered, most states that took that money did have to agree to take Race to the Top money sight unseen, strings attached. We need to take a step back, recognize that taking money for a product sight unseen wasn’t the wisest decision and we need to take a closer look.

Q: Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett says Common Core was being driven by state leaders and school chiefs before President Barack Obama took office. In fact, Bennett says the standards actually will give local districts more flexibility. Do you disagree?

A: I do disagree. I don’t believe that it will give local government more flexibility when you’re taking it out of their hands and the direction is coming from a bureau out of Washington DC.

And I think it was disingenuous to say that states have played a pivotal role in this, because as we just heard in the rally, those who were speaking on behalf of the states were not elected officials. We did not know who they were, but they were appointed.

So I think it’s disingenuous to say that it was a state led effort.

Q: Have you spoken with former Gov. Jeb Bush or anyone with his foundations about your concerns?

A: I have not been able to get Jeb on the phone (or speak with anyone from his foundations). On this particular issue, it has been like a rhino charging through the Capitol, and we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to have a discussion.

Opposition against Common Core State Standards has surged in recent weeks, propelled by talk show host Glenn Beck and other conservative commentators railing against the “federalized” standards.

In an article earlier this month, blogger Michelle Malkin wrote:

Big Government Republicans like Jeb Bush (and before him, brother W. and father G.H.W.) have little regard for local control of education. They and their statist partners in both Big Business and the public school establishment have tried for decades to impose dumbed-down, politicized curricular conformity in America’s classrooms.

Beck says states were coerced into accepting billions of federal dollars – and Common Core – because the money and the new standards were tied to Race to the Top grants.

“Progressives have jammed this through in the dead of night,” Beck said. “Beside being dumber, our kids are going to be indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology.”

That’s the message some Tea Party and Libertarian groups have adopted in their efforts to stop the implementation of Common Core.


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