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Start Of A New Trend? Florida School District Opts Out Of State Tests

FORT MYERS, Fla. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — The Lee County school district voted Wednesday night to opt out of all statewide, standardized testing.

The 3-2 vote left more questions than answers as the southwest Florida school district becomes the first in Florida to say no to Common Core testing. The meeting adjourned without any discussion regarding whether any testing will replace the state tests.

"Sometimes it takes an act of civil disobedience to move forward," said school board member Don Armstrong. "We cannot allow the fear to hold us back."

Board members Tom Scott and Mary Fischer voted with Armstrong, a decision that was met with cheers and applause from red-clad supporters who packed the house for the meeting. Fischer was initially reluctant to the idea, but served as the tie-breaker on Wednesday.

"No matter what else is going on, teachers go on and they teach the students," she said. 'If this is our window of opportunity, I hope we make the best of it."

Not everyone was happy about the vote.

Superintendent Nancy Graham said she was deeply concerned.

"This will hurt children. There is no way around it," she said as the audience booed.

Keith Martin, the board's attorney, said he isn't sure whether there were any "immediate, clear" consequences to the action. He added that it's possible the governor could remove the board members from their positions.

"Go ahead and remove me from my position," Armstrong said. "I'm a plumber. I deal with worse things every day.

The News-Press of Fort Myers reports supporters booed dissenting school board members as they begged Armstrong, Scott and Fischer to table the decision until more concrete plans could be made.

More than 33 people spoke during the three-hour meeting.

School board member-elect Pam LaRiviere said the district must now see how the Department of Education reacts. She predicted the decision will serve as an impetus for other districts.

"There's something about Lee County," she said. "It has not lost its frontier attitude. I give us a lot of credit, but I'm scared."

Lee County's decision has parents across the country wondering if this could start a new trend.

On a Facebook group with more than 12 thousand likes called, "Texas Parents Opt Out of State Tests," there are several comments backing the Lee County School District vote.

Staci Walls wrote, "I agree! I think all school districts should follow!"

Judy Banks Kowis, chimed in, "I absolutely agree! If only all schools and parents would say Enough!"

What do you think?  Should districts consider opting out of state tests?  Let us know on our Facebook page.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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