Florida's Common Core educational standards divide conservatives and Tea Party

Ad campaign for Common Core reforms on the air

TAMPA - The ads feature cheerful testimonials from Florida teachers celebrating dramatic improvements brought by educational reforms put in place 15 years ago. What's not immediately apparent is the force behind the ads.

The sponsor, Foundation for Excellence  is headed by former governor Jeb Bush, who supports the new Common Core educational standards adopted by more than 40 states including Florida. Bush is also  considered a presidential favorite for the GOP should he decide to run.

Pasco County teacher Faye Adams is featured in the ads.

"A lot of people don't know how much we've improved. In fact, one third of the population has thought that our educational system is doing worse. So it's important for everyone to be aware of that," said Faye, who's volunteering for Jeb Bush's cause -- not his candidacy.

Adams said Florida's recent gains prove that high standards and accountability work.

"This didn't happen overnight and it didn't happen by accident. We need to continually push for higher standards because that's how we got where we are today," said Adams.

Tampa Tea Party activist Chris Shalosky is part of a movement lined up against the Common Core standards convinced that Common Core amounts to a federal takeover of education.

"It doesn't bother me if somebody wants to teach creationism or wants to teach evolution. If I don't like it I'll move. If it's a national standard, I have no place to go," Shalosky said.

Common Core advocates insist the federal government had no hand in creating the standards meant to emphasize critical thinking over rote memorization. And they point out that local school districts will still design their own curriculum.

Still, Tea Party groups have been actively lobbying, sometimes heckling, Gov. Rick Scott over his support of Common Core, renamed the Florida Standards. If he stays on that side of the issue, Scott risks alienating a group key to his election four years ago.

Asked if he would vote for Charlie Crist if Rick Scott refused to eliminate Common Core requirements with executive action, Shalosky said "definitely not."

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