Early in October, I was in Davie to attend one of the public hearings on education standards for Florida’s K-12 students. It was an energized room, and I was honored to speak as a citizen, parent and business leader in favor of staying the course on the Florida Standards. As a strong supporter of education in the Sunshine State, I believe that these standards are a powerful tool to make sure our young people are ready for the world and workplace that await them.
Education is critical to spurring the state’s economic prosperity. Florida’s business community knows this perhaps better than most. Without a skilled workforce, AT&T and employers across the state cannot compete nationally or internationally. That’s bad for business, bad for Florida and bad for Floridians.
Unfortunately, Florida employers face a skills gap in the state — an urgent shortage of a resource as basic as food, more valuable than gold and in higher global demand than oil. According to a study conducted by the Florida Council of 100, Florida businesses spend an estimated $3.5 billion each year training their employees in the basic skills they should have learned before entering the workforce.
The Florida Standards, our version of the Common Core State Standards as adopted by our state and 44 others a few years ago, give our schools an ambitious but reachable target to help close this gap. They focus on the key areas of mathematics and English language arts and help ensure that our high school graduates are prepared to go to college or enter the workforce and compete in the global marketplace.
Business leaders across Florida support them for three major reasons.
• First, they are rigorous. They were designed by a diverse group of teachers, researchers and education experts, based on the best available research and the highest standards in Florida and other states and around the world — and taking into account employer needs.
• Second, over time the Florida Standards will enable performance comparisons with other states, especially as assessments based on the standards are adopted in the states using them. It is only through comparing Florida with other states that employers can ensure that their future workforce performs at the same or higher level as the rest of the country.
• Finally, the Florida Standards accommodate family mobility. Each year thousands of new workers come to add their skills and talents to the state’s economy, many with children who have to adjust to new communities and schools. Consistent standards ease that transition and make our state an attractive place for the professionals Florida employers recruit, as well as for all the children of military families who regularly move to bases here in Florida.
Florida Standards truly belong to our state. They were developed at the request of governors and state school officials. Florida’s Legislature, education leaders, and Gov. Scott are strong voices in the effort to develop the standards outside of any national or federal input or pressure. That kind of leadership is good for students and good for business.
Marshall M. Criser III is chair of the Florida Council of 100, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of business leaders that promotes economic growth.