Florida’s Small and Big Businesses Shifting on Common Core

Although Florida Governor Rick Scott’s executive order pulling the state out of the group designing multi-state exams based on Common Core drew almost unanimous support from Republican lawmakers, the reaction of the state’s business community is much more nuanced.

In the past, influential business groups like the US Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable have come out in favor of the standards, saying that tougher academic benchmarks would improve the quality of America’s workforce. However, support for Common Core among small business owners – especially the supporters of the Tea Party movement – has in the last year gone from tepid to non-existent.

West Orlando Tea Party leader Clyde Fabretti told Jim Stratton of the Orlando Sentinel that no business owner of his acquaintance supports Common Core. Fabretti compared Common Core to Obamacare – the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – a frequent target of Republican scorn.

But proponents [of Common Core] have been battling opposition sparked by fears — which many say are unfounded — that the standards and methods for achieving them would be dictated by Washington bureaucrats.

In July, Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson sought to ease those concerns with an op-ed piece in the Orlando Sentinel. Wilson wrote that state and local school districts will design their own curriculums to meet the benchmarks.

“Teachers will have more freedom to teach because they can focus on fewer, more meaningful topics,” Wilson wrote. “The FCAT will be replaced by assessments that go beyond multiple-choice questions and measure students’ depth of understanding.”

Similar arguments have been made by business groups all over the country, including New York, where the adoption of Common Core is currently under way.

Not all opponents, however, have based their opposition on political sea-changes. Some business owners have concerns that Common Core will usher in weaker math curricula that will have a negative effect on the economy. Nanette Paratto-Wagner is one who believes that moving away from drilling will actually harm students in the long-run. She worries that doing without drilling will leave students with an inability to solve simple arithmetic problems quickly, although Common Core supporters don’t think that is likely.

Gov. Scott continues to weave his way through the Common Core debate as both his supporters and critics in Florida present their arguments, leaving the state’s future relationship with the standards far from certain.

Once a Common Core supporter, the governor has become increasingly circumspect about the plan as Tea Party voters have amped up their criticism…

… Scott did not abandon Common Core, as many conservatives had asked. However, he did ask the State Board of Education to revisit the standards and hold a series of public meetings about them.