CRESTVIEW — Differences between Okaloosa County School Board candidates may arise, but on one topic of voter concern, they are practically united: Each finds components of the state’s Common Core standards to criticize.
State educators are developing a Florida version of the nationwide Common Core standards, including guidelines on how to implement them.
District 5 incumbent Melissa Thrush, completing her first term, reminded voters the school board did not choose Common Core.
“If we don’t like Common Core, we need to vote in a new governor and legislators,” Thrush said. “I think what is most frustrating for our teachers is we keep changing the rules.”
Her opponent, David Scholl, was more blunt in his criticism.
“Common Core: I oppose it,” he said. “I believe Common Core will do for our school system what the Affordable Care Act has done for our health care. I want tough standards, but I want local control.”
Cindy Frakes, a 16-year District 1 incumbent, said while she agrees with the state’s version of the standards, she disagrees with the range of hundreds of “exemplars,” or curricula options.
“Standards are what we teach,” Frakes said. “Curriculum is how we teach it.”
However, Frakes said she trusts area teachers to select curricula that reflect community standards.
“I know the teachers in Northwest Florida, and I know how conservative we are,” she said. “I know our teachers are not going to pick some risqué exemplars.”
Her challenger, Dr. Lamar White, a former teacher, coach and principal, faulted local acceptance of a Race to the Top grant, which required recipients to implement Florida Core, the state’s version of the national standards.
White also criticized the increasing number of early-release days in recent years that “reduce instruction time in the classroom.
“In effect, Okaloosa County has had academic decline and there’s no doubt Common Core will continue that,” White said.
The candidates spoke at a Thursday night forum organized by the North Okaloosa Republican Club. The night before, the club hosted a forum for county commission and clerk of court candidates.
The school board forum drew about 25 residents, which was less than half the previous night’s attendance.