Common Core – For Our Kids

Note: This column ran in the August 16, 2013 edition of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

What do economic development, better jobs, and our kids’ future all have in common? Good schools.

In a few days schools will be back in session. But are those schools good enough? The education our kids get will determine how well they can compete in today’s global economy. It will also determine whether businesses will be able to find the skilled employees they need right here at home – without moving and leaving pockets of unemployment behind. Good schools mean better jobs.

Unfortunately, far from being the best in the word, a recent study showed that America’s students rank only 25th in math and 17th in science among OECD countries. Our kids represent the future of our country, and if their skills are not up to par, not only will they suffer, but our nation will suffer.

The “Common Core state standards” initiative is designed to bring our schools – all our schools – up to par. It sets minimum standards for what every school must teach. Although the Common Core is a nationwide effort, it is not a federal initiative. But political leaders in Washington, in Tallahassee, and locally must step up to the plate, support this concept, and provide the funding to assure our kids are not cheated out of the future they deserve.

In today’s highly charged political environment, the Common Core standards have already come under attack. For example, there are organized groups who for religious reasons oppose teaching children about science, the scientific method, and critical thinking. If they were to win the political argument about what should be taught in our schools, our children could be forever disadvantaged.

Other opponents include those who oppose any outside influence or standards for local schools. In fact some even think the Common Core is a United Nations plot! However, the patchwork approach they favor can only lead to greater inequality, as students in some schools and some states get a head start, while others undermine student opportunities by not teaching the skills needed today.

We live in a mobile society, and young people must be able to compete for jobs in other states. If Florida students fall behind those in other states, they may miss out on opportunities elsewhere.

We must hold our elected officials feet to the fire to support Common Core standards and provide adequate funding for schools, for teacher training, and for our children.

We cannot afford to allow Florida to fester with growing pockets of poverty and unskilled, unemployed youth. It is our job to see that our young people are taught the skills they need. That is the least our children deserve.