Two hours before Jeb Bush was scheduled to address hundreds of people at the Hillsborough County Republican Lincoln Day dinner in Tampa, 15 opponents of Common Core education standards stood outside the Pepin Hospitality protesting the former Florida governor’s appearance.
“I’m against anything that nationalizes education,” said Emma Jane Miller, a former private school teacher from Valrico who helped organize the rally. She’s also a member of the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee, and said she was unhappy that she didn’t have a say so on who the party chose to headline its annual fundraising event.
“When Jeb Bush left Florida in 2006, he helped create the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and they have done nothing but push Common Core in 45 states, she said, referring to the education reform think tank the former Florida governor created when he left elected office nine years ago.
Five years ago, Florida did join 45 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting the national education benchmarks known as the Common Core State Standards. Over the past few years, activists on the left and the right have come to speak out against those standards, but the opposition has been more prominent among the Tea Party Right.
“I don’t want our children treated like they studied, studied, studied and if they didn’t pass the test they didn’t go to a good school,” Miller added, saying she hopes opposition from activists like her can prevent Bush from getting the GOP nomination.
Jim McGlothlin from Riverview said he was standing in the stifling heat and humidity to register his disapproval for the Common Core more than he was showing his disfavor toward Bush.
“I will support the candidate that the party picks,” he said. “I hope it’s a conservative candidate, but we definitely want to win this year so we should pick somebody who can bring more people into the fold.”
“I’m not an education person, but I’ve talked to a few teachers and they seem to think there’s too much testing,” he said. “Instead of teaching to kids they’re teaching to pass a test and that’s not a good thing.”
Betty James from Sun City Center held up a sign that read, “Just say no to Common Core.” She was poised to give a detailed explanation for why she feels the federal education standards are a detriment to kids and public education overall
“You have to look at the curriculum to really see what’s going on there — how they’re trying to make the children learn math,” she complained. “It takes them more than 20 minutes to solve a simple problem, and something you could do if you could memorize addition and subtraction, you would do within three seconds, and it takes them all this time to fill out these little boxes. It just slows things down.”
“Since the 1800s, we’ve been using the system that we’ve been using, and there’s no need to change it,” she continued. “Really there isn’t. Because look at the technology that’s been developed.”
Her friend Charla said Bush wouldn’t get her vote, though she said it was too early to say who would.