From Orlando Sentinel reporter John Busdecker:
More than any other issue discussed at Wednesday’s “Florida’s People, Florida’s Promise” forum for legislative candidates, it was education that dominated the conversation.
Several of the 16 candidates — both Democrats and Republicans — who spoke called for increased funding of public education and the need to reform the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.
“I think we are tremendously overtesting our kids,” said John Bush, a Republican running in House District 28, which covers most of eastern Seminole County.
For more than three hours at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, an audience of more than 150 listened as moderators Scott Maxwell of the Orlando Sentinel and Keith Landry of WOFL-Channel 35 had the candidates answer audience-submitted questions.
Joe Saunders, a Democratic candidate running in House District 49, which covers the UCF area, pointed to a recent cut of $300 million for higher education.
“We are shooting ourselves in the foot by not funding education,” Saunders said.
Jobs, gun rights, abortion, taxes and Florida’s foreclosure crisis were among other topics discussed at the event sponsored by AARP, Children’s Home Society of Florida, Florida Coalition for Children, Florida TaxWatch, League of Women Voters, the Sentinel and Channel 35. Candidates running in 12 districts in Central Florida participated in the forum.
The most important take-away from this is that the questions were submitted by people in the audience. They want would-be legislators to talk about education funding and testing. Members of both parties will say they want more funding. It’s a loser to say otherwise. But its good news that testing is receiving a hearing in voter interactions with politicians.
Two potential outs for Rick Scott and legislators still exists. First, they can hide behind the strict guidelines of the NCLB waiver. Ed Commissioner Gerard Robinson has been references these. The second – and much more disingenuous – is to claim they got rid of FCAT and replaced it with PARC, a national assessment test driven by common core standards. The switch to PARC was already planned and is an exercise in replacing one monster with another bigger one. But people who do this stuff for a living know the common core standards monster well. Influential educator Lisa Nielsen aptly refers to them as the precursor to testing the crap out of kids.