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Southwest Florida education activists have drafted a bill they believe will be a "solution to stopping Common Core."

The bill, known as the Florida Education Stakeholders Empowerment Act, is a collaborative effort between the Southwest Florida Citizens' Alliance, a conservative grass-roots group, and numerous other grass-roots groups throughout the state, said Keith Flaugh of Marco Island, one of the Alliance's founding directors.

The bill has four major provisions:

• It would give school districts flexibility to select their English-language arts and math assessments from a list of Legislature-approved tests from across the country.

• With exception of English and math, the bill would allow the district the ability to choose which tests, if any, would be required for other subjects.

• It would require all student data collected by the district to have identifying details removed prior to data release.

• It would establish a pathway for parents to legally "opt-out" their children from testing and "opt-in" children to topics such as sex education and family values.

Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics, language arts and literacy that has been adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia. It was designed to help American students catch up to international peers and succeed in college and career paths. Supporters say the patchwork of standards across the nation causes many problems, including high school graduates that often need remedial courses to catch up with their college peers.

But the standards have also been a lightning rod for criticism over the past year.

The Florida bill is sponsored by state Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Hardee, and is in the drafting stage, said Chris Quackenbush, an Alliance member and founder of Stop Common Core FL.

Albritton declined to comment on the bill until it is formally submitted to the Legislature. Lawmakers won't be back in session until March, but new bills can be submitted for drafting until Jan. 23. All bills must be submitted to the Legislature in their final state by Feb. 25.

"We have been carrying our message to legislators across the state, and when we found Ben, we knew we found home," Quackenbush said. "He's an effective leader, and he's very familiar with education issues because he home-schools his kids."

Quackenbush, Flaugh, and fellow Alliance member Deidre Clemons traveled to Tallahassee Wednesday to "find a champion in the Senate" to back the bill and to testify about Common Core to the Education and Finance Committees.

Not alone in the fight

The Alliance is not alone in the fight against testing and Common Core.

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Nassau, submitted a bill in November that would cap the number of days school districts can test children.

Flaugh recognizes his group's bill is going to be a "heavy lift," but said he believes it has real potential.

"Grass-roots groups have gotten a focus on stopping Common Core, but that's a negative message without a solution. So we've created a solution to stopping Common Core," Flaugh said.

Quackenbush said their organization's legal team has been working on the bill for more than six months. Although she and Flaugh stressed the bill is in its infancy, they believe it has potential to get people talking.

"No matter what happens to this bill, it's going to be a huge story," Flaugh said. "The only reason we're having this debate is because people who are implementing (Common Core) are realizing how horrible it is, and those who lead the grass-roots groups demand they stop it."

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