LFT shield

Common Core bills rejected by committee

Last-minute push by Jindal doesn’t sway members

Two bills aimed at halting the imposition of Common Core standards and the tests than measure them in Louisiana were deferred by the House Education Committee after grueling, hours-long testimony on Wednesday.

HB 381 by Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles) would have replaced Common Core with new standards established by a 30-member commission. That body, including representatives from stakeholders like LFT and parent organizations, would write a set of stands which would then have to be approved by the legislature.

LFT President Steve Monaghan spoke in favor of the bill, saying that the standards debate is important because of the botched implementation of Common Core by the state Department of Education.

When Common Core was first proposed in 2010, he said, there was little discussion and no effort to explain Common Core in public forums. Instead, the focus was on passing an unpopular and controversial new teacher evaluation system.

“The subject is toxic,” he said, “but we’ll never know if it had to be. The public and educators were left out.”

In a surprising turn of events, Gov. Bobby Jindal – who in the past had been a supporter of Common Core – had his staff signal that he supported Rep. Geymann’s bill. That put the governor into what appeared to be an unlikely alliance with the LFT, other unions and school boards. At the same time, the governor’s traditional allies – the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the Council for a Better Louisiana, Stand for Children and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education – all opposed HB 381. It even put the governor at odds with his hand-picked Superintendent of Education, John White, who vigorously defended Common Core.

Observers cautioned against making too much of the governor’s stance. He was not in the state during the debate, and no one from the administration spoke to the issue. Lawmakers who have been in lockstep with the governor on most issues voted against the bill. It did not seem that Jindal made its passage a very high priority.

Testimony on the bill began at 9:00 AM, and was suspended when the House came into session at 2:00 PM. The committee reconvened after adjournment, and continued for several more hours before the vote. Interestingly, opponents of the bill were given virtually unlimited time to speak against it, while supporters were limited to two minutes apiece.

HB 381 was involuntarily deferred after only seven members of the committee voted for it, while 12 opposed.

The next bill to be heard was HB 558 by Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie), which would have suspended the PARCC test and converted it to a pilot program. That bill failed by the same 7-12 vote as HB 381.

Several other bills that would have affected Common Core and PARCC were voluntarily deferred by the authors.