Protesters denounce Common Core standards at BR rally

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Kayla Lirette, left, her husband Tyler, and Dierdra Scott, oppose the Common Core State Standards Initiative Saturday at the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Kayla Lirette, left, her husband Tyler, and Dierdra Scott, oppose the Common Core State Standards Initiative Saturday at the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

More than 200 people from about a dozen parishes rallied at the state Department of Education headquarters Saturday to denounce Louisiana’s participation in the national Common Core education standards.

With passionate speeches and provocative signs, parents, teachers and former educators joined forces to express their displeasure with the Common Core State Standards Initiative at a protest spearheaded by several Facebook groups.

Common Core sets more rigorous standards with benchmarks of what students should learn in school. It’s been adopted by 44 states, including Louisiana. Florida was the 45th state, but Gov. Rick Scott on Monday ordered his state’s education department to withdraw from Common Core.

Shouts of “Stop Common Core” and “We are not misinformed” permeated throughout the group while people held signs reading “R.I.P Common Core” with a rotten apple core. Other signs read “One size does not fit all,” “Stop Commie Core” and “Bury Common Core.”

The apple analogy seen on numerous signs and pins has a dual meaning, co-organizer Terri Timmcke said. She said the apple represents the age-old relationship between teachers and students that people feel is being eaten away by the Common Core standards.

Co-organizer Mary Kass said most parents she has spoken to are disgusted with the Common Core curriculum because they have no input in it.

Several parents and speakers cited the “Louisiana Children’s Code Preamble” in state law which says, in part, that parents have the right make decisions regarding their children’s education.

Many at the protest said they believe Common Core violates the code because it will be implemented in all schools, even Catholic schools, leaving parents no alternative besides homeschooling if they disagree with the coursework.

Kass said the people and groups she works with don’t oppose raising education standards in Louisiana but are opposed to national standardized testing and other initiatives that are key elements of Common Core.

Teachers are upset because Common Core handcuffs them as to what they can teach and how they can teach it, Kass said.

Much of the discontent stemmed from late August when parents began to notice their children coming home from school frustrated, Kass said. The parents started asking questions of the school and the teachers and learned of the Common Core curriculum, she said.

The stated objective of Common Core is to better prepare students for college or a job, but Kass disagrees with that goal.

“We want to protect the dreams of our children, we don’t just want them trained for a workforce, we want them to pursue their dreams,” Kass said.

About a dozen speakers — including state Rep. Cameron Henry, Jr., R-New Orleans, and Sara Wood, an outspoken critic of Common Core in St. Tammany Parish — offered their views on Common Core in speeches to the crowd.

Speakers cited numerous reasons why Louisiana should steer clear of Common Core, including that someone outside Louisiana is telling the state’s educators how to teach.

Henry reiterated on Saturday his promise to a bill for the 2014 legislative session to remove Louisiana from Common Core.

“Common core eliminates parental oversight and replaces it with the bureaucrats in Washington,” Henry said. “I’ve asked the governor to join all of us in passing this legislation that furthers our shared goal of insuring success for Louisiana’s children by allowing parents to continue to be the key drivers in the education of their children.”

Some protestors and speakers compared Common Core to the Affordable Care Act because they say both were implemented before the public fully understood them.

“It was snuck in the dark of night,” Joyce Linde, of the Geaux Free Tea Party of Lafayette, said before the protest.

Common Core does have several backers outside of the capitol building, including the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Stand for Children/Louisiana.

“These standards are an opportunity to refocus K-12 education on reasoning, problem solving, perseverance, decision making, explanatory writing and other skills critical to success in a 21st Century economy,” the chamber said Thursday.