Whether you support the Common Core State Standards or don’t,  it’s important to recognize when critics are going off the rails in their dissent.

Here’s a newly publicized example: A Republican Florida state legislator, Charles Van Zant, told an audience at a conference in Orlando that the organization that has won a $220 million contract from Florida to design standardized tests aligned to Florida’s new standards are trying to get young people to become gay. Specifically, he said, Think Progress reported

These people, that will now receive $220 million from the state of Florida unless this is stopped, will promote double-mindedness in state education and attract every one of your children to become as homosexual as they possibly can. I’m sorry to report that to you.

It would be easy to think this is just some crank on the outside of the main Common Core debate, but as a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center says, anti-Core rhetoric by right-wing extremists based on conspiracy theories and misinformation are entering the mainstream debate. The report notes that the extremist anti-Core campaign is really “a proxy for a broader assault on public education itself.”

Van Zant (see video below) is referring to the American Institutes for Research, which is a behavioral and social science research and evaluation organization that developed Florida’s “value-added” scores for teachers. It did recently win a new six-year $220 million contract from the Florida Education Department to develop new state standardized tests that will be aligned to the new Florida Standards, which started out as the Common Core but got a name change amid growing opposition to the Core initiative. The Florida Standards themselves remain remarkably similar to the Common Core.

He said that the organization has on its Web site material that promotes “as hard as they can any youth that is interested in the LGBT agenda.”  He is apparently referring to material on the AIR website about the LGBTQI2-S Learning Community, which is “an opportunity for individuals and organizations in the behavioral health, child welfare, juvenile justice, and education systems to learn about strategies for delivering services that can enhance the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, or two-spirit (LGBTQI2-S) youth and their families.”

It further says:

The LGBTQI2-S Learning Community is part of the Technical Assistance Partnership for Child and Family Mental Health (TA Partnership). The TA Partnership is deeply committed to helping systems better serve the LGBT community. The LGBTQI2-S Learning Community offers a number of services, including the following:

A compilation of web-based resources

Presentations at conferences and meetings

National webinars

Networking opportunities for professionals, youth, and other allies

The TA Partnership is a collaborative initiative operated by the American Institutes for Research and the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. It leads several initiatives to build awareness and capacity in the behavioral health, child welfare, education, and juvenile justice systems to support LGBT youth and their families.

The TA Partnership is sponsored by the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch of the Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Van Zant made the comments at a March conference. Think Progress just wrote about it posted this video.