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Republicans On A Tightrope When It Comes To Common Core

Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, who earlier this monthadvocated the state’s removal from a testing consortium aligned with Common Core education standards, is now defending the state’s connection to the program.

When it comes to Common Core, Republicans are split. Some view the standards as a boost for education while others eye them with suspicion. Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford have asked education commissioner Tony Bennett to remove Florida from a testing consortium known as PARCC, which administers Common Core-linked exams.  But Gaetz Monday stood up for the Common Core in an event at the capitol…  

“Common Core wasn’t developed by a bunch of the folks in Washington. It wasn’t developed by the Obama administration or someone at the United Nations. Common Core was a product of collegial work among people like Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels and Jeb Bush—hardly apologists for Barack Obama or for federal control of education.”  

The standards were in development when the Obama Administration unveiled a multi-billion dollar education grant program. In an effort to win some of that money, many states  -- including Florida --signed on to Common Core, despite pushback from conservative lawmakers. But Florida A & M University Political Scientist Christopher Daniels says Gaetz’ defense of common core in the face of criticism from conservative groups highlights a rift in the Republican Party:

“You have the more Republican establishment, which is closer to the center, and then you have the element of the Republican party who are extreme right—more libertarian, who have different views.  And sometimes you’ll see a clash between those two groups.  I think this isn’t Republican vs. Democrat, but intra-Republican bickering on the issue.”  

In recent weeks backlash to Common Core in Florida has grown. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio recently expressed opposition to the standards, repeating a common refrain from opponents who say Common Core could lead to a federal takeover of education. But one of the state’s most high-profile education figures, former Governor Jeb Bush, remains a Common Core supporter.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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