Between the concession phone call from Andrew Gillum (the first concession on Nov 6) and the confetti drop on his head that Tuesday night, Governor-elect, Ron DeSantis signaled his support for school choice in his victory speech. “You can count on me if you’re a low-income family and you’re relying on a Step Up For Students scholarship. You can count on me to keep that going.”
Helping low-income kids get into better schools is a small piece of the education pie in Florida, but hearing him call it out is important because it signals that he’ll likely be friendly to other efforts to improve schools and help more kids succeed.
As a conservative, I was thrilled to see him beat Gillum (pre- and post-recount). He gives me confidence that Florida will continue to be a low-tax state with a focus on growing our economy. And as a dad, I was happy we elected a governor who’s committed to school choice and to helping schools “recruit, reward, and retain” good teachers.
But when it comes to what our kids are expected to learn in school, “the standards,” I worry Florida may take a step backward under DeSantis.
During the campaign, he repeatedly promised to repeal Common Core in Florida. Technically, we already got rid of Common Core under Governor Rick Scott, but I get what he means: He wants to scrap our existing Common-Core-based standards.
Considering a recent anti-Common-Core push from national conservatives and the fact that will eventually want to find some way to leave his mark on education, legislative proposals could start popping up in Tallahassee within the next year or two.
Just last month, prominent conservative education thinkers Rick Hess and Grant Addison published sharp criticisms in The National Review. The Federalist and Breitbart picked up on the theme and published their own takes.
I have a lot of respect for Hess (I got to get to know him a little at a training event in October). He’s smart. But he’s also wrong to play to people’s ignorance on the Common Core standards.
In his NR post, he rightly points out the problem of a national “Standards Institute,” teaching thousands of educators from 27 states that there is no such thing as a ‘good white person,’ and that racial bias “has no cure.” (It was a white person who said that, by the way.)
That kind of one-dimensional thinking on the left only perpetuates our nation’s inability to have productive conversations about race.
But where Hess goes wrong is in linking it to the Common Core. Actually, this is where a lot of conservatives, including leaders like DeSantis, tend to go wrong.
The nonprofit leading that standards institute, UnboundED, created a product that educators across the country found valuable. In an era where most states had adopted Common Core, UnboundED stood out because they had created a “standards-aligned” curriculum and teaching techniques that made sense to a lot of districts. Many school districts, all too eager to borrow from the heavy lift that had already been done by UnboundED, adopted their materials.
As time went on, revelations of their left-leaning approach began to emerge.
But here’s the thing, anyone could have created their own standards-aligned curriculum and teaching techniques. And nobody obligated districts to use UnboundEd’s product. It was one option in the vast marketplace of teaching materials.
If a conservative organization took the initiative (I’m not aware of one that has), it could create an entirely different training program and curriculum around the Common Core that infuses principles of capitalism into math lessons, prioritizes books by conservative authors, and helps students become more critical of media bias. Then they’d just have to convince school districts to take it up.
I think we both know how most districts would react, but that illustrates my point.
It’s not the Common Core standards that open the door to political ideology in our public schools, it’s how school districts, principals and teachers choose to teach them.
A standard is simply an academic goal. How we reach that goal is where lesson plans, politics and personalities come into play.
I’m fine having a debate about whether standards are too high or not, but if your concern is over the liberal indoctrination, you should be taking that up with your local school district and school board. And I mean you really SHOULD be taking that up with them.
Toward the end of his campaign, DeSantis had softened his stance. Instead of an outright repeal, he now says “review and improve” Florida’s standards.
Given the pressure from some conservatives at the national level and the general misunderstanding of and discontent for Common Core within the state, I still worry DeSantis will feel pressure to scrap our standards and force Florida to reinvent the wheel.
I hope he doesn’t.