Gov. Rick Scott's office announced Monday he had signed a trio of bills aimed at allaying fears about the state's version of the Common Core education standards — even though Scott apparently didn't have one of the bills when the signing was announced.
Scott also signed another education bill dealing with school grades.
According to Scott's office, the three Common Core-related measures he signed Monday included:
- SB 864, which requires school districts to set up a process through which parents can contest the selection of certain textbooks and classroom materials.
- HB 7031, which among other things removes all references to "Common Core" from state law. A set of state standards based on Common Core and using the overwhelming majority of the Common Core standards would remain in place.
- SB 188, a bill barring schools or school districts from collecting biometric and other personal information.
But there appeared to be a crimp with one part of Scott's announcement: SB 188, meant to tamp down fears that the new standards would allow school districts to vacuum up sensitive information about students. The Legislature had not sent the bill to the governor by the time Scott announced he had signed it.
At the request of Scott's office, the bill was sent to the governor after the announcement.
Each of the bills addresses one of the concerns raised by activists, mostly but not exclusively conservatives, who have slammed Common Core.
"The legislation I am signing today will set Florida students and families up for education success and prevent unnecessary collection of data from our students and reaffirm that Florida school boards will select the textbooks with historic opportunities for public input," Scott said in a statement announcing the signings.
Conservatives have criticized the standards, which were commissioned by the governors and chief education officials of dozens of states, as a federal intrusion into school operations that should be handled locally.
Under an executive order signed by Scott in September, the state pulled out of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, an effort by many of the states involved in Common Core to develop tests to measure student learning under the new standards. Education Commissioner Pam Stewart announced in March that the non-profit group American Institutes for Research would develop Florida's tests.
Also under Scott's executive order, the State Board of Education voted in February to go forward with dozens of changes to Common Core, including reinserting creative writing into the standards and explicitly including calculus guidelines. Stewart and others have argued that the changes justify calling the benchmarks the "Florida Standards."
Scott also signed a bill (SB 1642) related to the new tests from American Institutes for Research, being instituted in the 2014-15 school year. That plan, modeled on a blueprint developed by Stewart, would simplify the formula for grading schools. It would also do away with the penalties schools could currently receive for the grades assigned in the 2014-15 school year — a plan meant to provide a transition year as schools adjust to the new standards and tests.