Despite literally millions of pro-Common Core dollars from the corporate and government education establishment, grassroots anti-Common Core parents fighting the inferior standards; federal overreach; invasive, punitive, tyrannical, and validity challenged testing; and data mining scored some impressive victories in the Florida primary elections for state legislative, school board, and superintendent. The iron grip of Jeb Bush’s political and policy influence may finally be starting to loosen. Regardless of their records, politicians clamored to portray themselves as anti-Common Core. The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition’s (FSCCC) grassroots voter guides, profiled at Truth in American Education were an attempt to separate the rhetoric from the records. The incredible grassroots work of many of our key partners and allies at The Tea Party Network, Liberty First, the Republican Liberty Caucus, Florida Citizens’ Alliance, and Florida Parents Against Common Core with ratings, endorsements, forums, and interaction on Common Core and other important issues as well as great efforts by our supporters were very successful in several major races.
Here is a brief recap of results for some of the races we evaluated with more detail available HERE:
Anti-Common Core Leader Victorious Despite Establishment Onslaught:
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 (R-Vero Beach) 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 by FSCCC. Her work has been nationally recognized by national partner groups like Truth in American Education and the American Principles Project. Her efforts even incited the fury of Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s future giving her a D one year in their ratings, which FSCCC viewed as a badge of honor. 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 spent $1.2 million raised by himself and received from PACs in an effort to defeat her.
Workman 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 and her family. 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 this author 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.
Deceit on Anti-Common Core Record Brought Down the Establishment Favorite
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 in August, 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 if he wins against Democrat Professor Frank Alcock who has stated his concern about too much testing, look forward to working with him as he follows through on his pledge to introduce anti-Common Core legislation. Rep. Pilon is to be heartily commended and thanked for his many anti-Common Core efforts.
Chairwoman of the House Education Committee and Major Florida Common Core Architect Fails to Advance to the Senate
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 deceptively 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. After congratulating Senator-elect Baxley who will not face any Democrat opposition in November, we hope he will authentically challenge Common Core and federal overreach during his senate tenure as he portrayed in his campaign literature.
Florida’s Common Core Re-Brand Became an Issue in a Hard Fought House Race
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 and had many political connections resulting in him 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 analysis about the re-brand statements became an issue toward the end. Gruters won the race, but only by 382 votes. If Mr. Gruters, who is a heavy favorite, is successful in November in a very Republican district, we hope that he will drop the re-branding maneuvers and stick with some of the good things he did to fight Common Core after that 2013 summit.
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 win 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!