COMMON CORE. The past few months have seen an increase in the debate regarding the Common Core Standards for K-12 education. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia adopted the standards, which would create a uniform outline of what students at each grade level should master. In response to criticism of the standards by some groups, Governor Scott issued an executive order withdrawing Florida from the consortium developing the new standardized tests. Florida must now develop its own testing because the FCAT is scheduled to be replaced in the 2014-2015 school year. However, Florida will still be teaching according to the standards, which some districts have already put in place.
SCHOOL GRADES. On October 15th the Board of Education voted to extend the “safety net” of not allowing schools to drop more than one letter grade per year, for another two year period. There was controversy this past year when the idea first passed. Critics felt the State was padding results and thus, helped to substantially reduce the number of failing schools.
LAKE OKEECHOBEE DISCHARGE. Senator Joe Negron (R-Stuart), the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, announced that he will be seeking an additional $1 million in funding to restore South Florida estuaries. The damage to oyster reefs and sea-grass beds is the result of increased water flow authorized by the Corps of Engineers from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee Rivers. The water flow, which has been polluted by agricultural runoff and other conditions, led to an algae bloom in the estuaries. Governor Scott has already pledged $79.7 million in funding to build reservoirs that will reduce the water flow from Lake Okeechobee and to clean up Central and North Florida springs.