August 31, 2016
Congratulations and thanks to all the candidates, whether they won or lost, for their great efforts in the Florida primary. We are especially pleased and thankful for their strong efforts in the realm of education to stand for academic excellence, parental rights and local control and against federal overreach, mindless testing tyranny, data mining, and psychological profiling.
Education in general and specifically, the Common Core system was a very important issue in the just completed Florida primary. Regardless of their records, politicians clamored to sound pro-parent and to portray themselves as anti-Common Core. Our grassroots voter guides were an attempt to separate the rhetoric from the records. We thank you for reading and distributing them. We thank our partners and allies at The Tea Party Network, Liberty First, the Republican Liberty Caucus, and the Florida Citizens' Alliance for all of their tremendous grassroots work with ratings, endorsements, forums, and interaction on Common Core and other important issues. However, education was not the only issue on the ballot yesterday. There was much money and many competing interests on a whole range of issues involved, of which the pro-Common Core Tallahassee and corporate establishment was only one, albeit significant, part. Yet despite the massive funding arrayed against us and our partners, we believe that these rating and all of our work together made an important difference in these races.
Here is a brief recap of results for the races we evaluated:
Senate District 17 Winner Mayfield:
This race was a stellar example of how courage, integrity, authentic efforts against Common Core, and grassroots support can win elections against great odds. Rep. Debbie Mayfield has been the standard bearer in Florida against the invasive and ineffective Common Core system for the last three years, often standing alone against the special interest groups and the education establishment in her own party and caucus, receiving the grade of A++ in our ratings. That was the highest grade received by any legislator reviewed. She won this Republican primary for the Florida Senate 42% to 35% despite being out raised basically 2:1 by her opponent, Rep. Ritch Workman, who raised $1.2 million in an effort to defeat her.
He had the backing & funding of the very pro-Common Core Florida Chamber of Commerce and outgoing Speaker of the House, unofficially from Governor Scott who made robo calls on his behalf, and a slew of lobbyists. Workman used those funds to make vicious and unfounded attacks against Mayfield. The negativity was off putting. In addition, Workman made the huge mistake of making false statements about his work against Common Core that were called out by this organization as well as multiple media sources. Unable to stand up to scrutiny, Workman blocked me and FSCCC from his Twitter account and refused to answer media inquiries about the matter. In the end, as in the case of Jeb Bush, lots of money could not overcome "Mama Bear" parental fury against Common Core proponents and deceivers who behaved so badly against the heroine of the movement here in Florida.
Senate District 23 Winner Steube
This five-way race featured two candidates that were highly rated in our FSCCC voter guides
, Rep. Ray Pilon who had sponsored or co-sponsored many anti-Common Core bills, and Rep. Greg Steube, who had broad-based conservative support from several of our anti-Common Core allies. The other legislator candidate, former Rep. Doug Holder had the backing of the Chamber and the governor
, with the Chamber spending huge amounts of money trying to take Steube out. However, Holder made the same mistake that Workman did false statements
about his anti-Common Core efforts, earning him an F in our voter guide. We believe our voter guide and information about Holder's false statements were a key factor in this race. In July, Holder was leading
the race by 6 points over Steube. After the media reports about the Common Core falsehood and our voter guides were released, Steube was leading and Holder fell to third place.
Steube ended up winning the race, despite the huge amounts of money for negative ads and mailers thrown at him by the Establishment forces, with Holder coming in second. We congratulate Rep. Steube on his victory and look forward to working with him as he follows through on his pledge to introduce anti-Common Core legislation. We thank Rep. Pilon for his many anti-Common Core efforts.
Senate District 12 Winner Baxley:
This race in central Florida featured two veteran legislators, Rep. Dennis Baxley who we rated
with a D for some deceptive but not outright false mailers and Rep. Marlene O'Toole, outgoing chairwoman of the House Education Committee, whom we had given an F grade. O'Toole had promoted and moved every major piece of major Common Core legislation since the standards were adopted in 2010, including removing the name of Common Core from Florida statute and blocked every bill promoting parental rights and local control, especially by Rep. Mayfield. Businessman David Gee, received an A- rating for giving so much of his own time and treasure for this race, as well as solidly understanding the dangers of the Common Core system. The Common Core aspect of the race and our voter guides were covered both locally
and in large media markets like Miami
. Gee split the anti-Common Core vote with Baxley, almost allowing O'Toole to win, but in the end Baxley won by about 700 votes, keeping the "Queen of Common Core" from advancing to the Senate. Gee ran a good race, but because he was a political newcomer against two well-known officials, there was too much name recognition and too many connections to overcome. We congratulate Senator-elect Baxley who will not face any Democrat opposition in November and hope he will authentically challenge Common Core and federal overreach during his senate tenure.
House District 73 Winner Gruters:
Two candidates fought it out in the Sarasota area. Steve Vernon, former chairman of Tea Party Manatee, received an A grade
from us while Joe Gruters received a D-. The low grade was for being one of the first officials, as a trustee of Florida State University and Sarasota County Republican chairman, to suggest that the name of Common Core be changed
to avoid parental fury. Governor Scott followed this suggestion a few months later, making Florida one of the first states to do the "Common Core Re-Brand." Gruters was supported by the Chamber of Commerce, had many political connections being expected to easily win the seat. However Vernon ran a very strong race, contributing much of his own treasure to stand for freedom. Our voter guides and the re-brand statements became an issue toward the end. Gruters won the race, but only by 382 votes. We congratulate Mr. Gruters, who is a heavy favorite in November in a very Republican district, and hope that he will drop the re-branding maneuvers and stick with some of the good things he did to fight Common Core, as during his county Republican chairmanship.
House District 4 Winner Ponder:
This was another five candidate scrum in the Panhandle. The candidate receiving the highest rating
in this district, Laurie Bartlett, who has been fighting Common Core for years, ran a very brave campaign for which we sincerely thank her, but was not able to effectively compete against all of the Establishment money and connections in this race. We congratulate Destin Mayor Mel Ponder for his victory and hope that his stated opposition to Common Core outweighs his concerning support for regionalism, another means of more centralized government that could well include economic, workforce, and education planning.
Senate District 28 - Winner Passidomo:
This primary in the Naples/Fort Meyers area of Southwest Florida involved two candidates that had mostly been involved in other issues. The winner received a lower rating
from us for her sponsorship of a very concerning student data mining bill in 2013. However, Rep. Passidomo had very strong Chamber and governor support and education was not a major part of this campaign that focused more on health care, abortion and water quality issues. We congratulate Rep. Passidomo on her victory and hope that she listens hard to the parents of her district more than the foundations and special interests that pushed that data bill. We also thank Rep. Hudson for being willing to make Common Core an issue
in this campaign.
Other Important Outcomes
Here are few other races that FSCCC did not directly rate, but where our information was used and or Common Core was a significant issue.
Outgoing House K-12 Subcommittee Chairwoman Defeated in County Superintendent Race by 2:1 Margin
Rep. Janet Adkins fulfilled the analogous role of implementing Common Core on the House K-12 subcommittee level that Marlene O'Toole fulfilled on the full education committee. In fact, she was the primary House author of the deceptive Common Core re-brand bill
. Local activists used our information
and that from other anti-Common Core groups to educate the voters.
Anti-Common Core Activist Able to Win Chamber Endorsement & Be Victorious
Financial adviser Byron Donalds running in the Republican primary for FL HD 80
in Collier & Hendry Counties and wife Erika who sits on the Collier School Board (Naples area) have been stalwart anti-Common Core fighters for several years. Despite that opposition, he was able to win the Florida Chamber of Commerce endorsement and wion his race handily. Perhaps his victory will allow him to warn local business people and even the state business group about the dangers of Common Core to academic skills and an educated workforce.
Common Core an Issue in Many School Board Races
Whether candidates won or lost, Common Core remained an important topic in many school board races across the state. While there were anti-Common Core victories, there were other cases where unions, charter school companies, or textbook interests intervened on behalf of the pro-Common Core candidates. This is a mixed bag.
We hope that these victories are inspiring and that the defeats are instructive and that legislative leaders in Florida and across the nation understand that the anti-Common Core parent movement is powerful and not going away even in Jeb Bush's Florida. We also hope that parents across the nation will continue to stay involved at every level of government that they can to protect the hearts, minds, futures, and privacy of our precious children and that they may still obtain "education for a free nation." Thank you for everything you do!
August 11, 2016
Jane Robbins,attorney and senior fellow for the American Principles Project, has written another excellent column about the dangers of the next big edu fad - social emotional learning standards. Eight states are working with CASEL to adopt them. These are California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.
We have long written about the dangerous loss of freedom of conscience and privacy inherent in social emotional research and data gathering via the allegedly academic Common Core aligned tests that are being amplified in the Every Student Succeeds Act's accountability paradigm. Mrs. Robbins was kind enough to cite Dr. Effrem's research paper on this topic. Here is an excerpt:
Assessment and development of students' social and emotional skills is risky business. What kind of training will teachers or other school personnel have for this responsibility? Psychologist Dr. Gary Thompson points out
the extremely sensitive nature of evaluating children's social-emotional makeup and warns about having inadequately trained personnel implementing plans designed to alter students' psyches.
When non-psychologists dabble in these murky waters, the result is tremendously subjective analyses of what a child is thinking or feeling as opposed to what the government thinks he should be thinking or feeling. Dr. Karen Effrem, who has researched and written extensively about the issue of SEL, warns
about the subjectivity of this kind of analysis, particularly with young children.
Even prominent SEL proponents caution that assessing students on SEL standards, especially with the common mechanism of student surveys, can be a shot in the dark. Researchers Angela Duckworth and David Yeager have said that "perfectly unbiased, unfakeable, and error-free measures are an ideal, not a reality." [Read the whole column titled: The Latest Big Education Fad, Social-Emotional Learning, Is As Bad As It Sounds]
CASEL or the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning receives major taxpayer funded grants. Their website says they received funding from the Institute for Education Sciences
that is also pushing the social emotional research and profiling on students via the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA):
In 2013, CASEL was one of six grantees nationwide to receive funding through the first round of Researcher-Practitioner Partnership grants. With IES support, CASEL is partnering with Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada to create a monitoring system that includes SEL indicators and can be used to develop preventative interventions that promote academic, social, and emotional learning among their students.
The group has been involved in pushing this paradigm of non-academic, subjective learning for a long time. Illinois
was the first state into which CASEL inserted its tentacles back in 2003. The social emotional standards had connections to federal education law at least as far back as 1994 as Dr. Effrem wrote
back at the time::
It was in Goals 2000 and the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), NCLB's predecessor, that federal interference with local education began in earnest, by demanding the imposition of state standards based on the eight goals of Goals 2000.
Goal number one of Goals 2000 says, "All children will start school ready to learn." As we have documented, this mandate, disguised as a goal, has given rise to the metastatic growth of early childhood programs across the country. In these programs, "ready to learn" has little or nothing to do with preparing young children to learn academic subjects and much to do with indoctrination of our very youngest and most vulnerable children in the most radical of ideologies. Even if accepted by some parents, it is completely wrong to teach ideology to three, four and five year old children. The ideas being promoted include: earth worshiping environmentalism, radical feminism, engendering fear and hatred of our military, and acceptance of homosexuality. It is these principles that are taught to young children and considered part of "social and emotional" development.
Social and emotional development is a large part of another mandate within Goals 2000. Goal eight says, "Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children." Notice that academic growth is the lowest priority on that list. That relegation of academics to such a low priority has resulted in an emphasis on work based and service learning out of the classroom, group projects, whole language, fuzzy math, and civics that undermine the principles of freedom within the Declaration of Independence.
The merger of the social and emotional with the academic has elevated vague, subjective psychosocial concepts to an equal or even higher plane than academic knowledge. It has also confused what is academic and what standard must be met to succeed in school. Is learning that if 4 birds are in a nest and 2 fly away that 2 are left more important or is learning how to empathize with the birds that are left in the nest? Is it more important to learn tolerance for all lifestyles and behaviors or that certain behaviors have serious
physical and emotional consequence
We would add that regardless of one's view on any controversial topic, it is the parent's job to do this training.
It is critical that parents oppose this growing threat to our children's privacy and freedom of thought. We must reject this overt indoctrination of our children and demand an end to psychological data mining inherent in Common Core tests and competency based education..