Pro-Common Core group using stuffed unicorns to make its case

Using stuffed pink unicorns to dispel what they call myths about Common Core, officials of a group that backs the standards said Wednesday that they are launching a marketing campaign to defeat legislative efforts to repeal the overhaul.

The push is led by the Alliance for Better Classrooms political action committee, or ABC PAC.

The same group, with Baton Rouge contractor Lane Grigsby as one of its leaders, played a key role in the 2011 races for the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Organizers of the effort have distributed stuffed pink or white unicorns to state lawmakers that include tags that say “Unicorns are not real. And neither are most of the things you’ve heard about Common Core State Standards.”

Most desks in the House chamber were dotted by the miniature animals with a message on Wednesday.

The group contends that Gov. Bobby Jindal, a former Common Core backer who now opposes the standards, is guilty of a “dramatic and sensationalized flip-flop” on the issue.

“Such an important decision about children’s future shouldn’t be clouded with misconceptions and outright misleading statements,” Dan Juneau, executive director of ABC PAC and former president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said in a prepared statement.

“We owe it to our kids to educate ourselves and realize exactly what Common Core State Standards do,” Juneau said.

Erica Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the group, said Juneau was unavailable for an interview.

State lawmakers were in the third day of a two-month session where Common Core repeal efforts are expected to be a key part of the gathering.

Jindal has made the issue a priority, and bills to shelve the standards and order new ones written are pending in the House Education Committee.

House Education Committee Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, said Wednesday that it will be at least early May before any of the bills are debated.

The same committee killed a wide range of anti-Common Core proposals in 2014.

The session has to end by 6 p.m. on June 11.

Common Core represents new academic benchmarks in reading, writing and math.

The standards are in public school classrooms statewide.

Nearly 320,000 students in grades three through eight were tested on the new standards last month.

Backers say the academic guidelines will improve student achievement and make them more competitive with their counterparts worldwide.

Opponents contend the new rules represent federal intrusion in local school issues.

“Common Core is a failure, and giving away unicorns won’t fix its problems. It’s time for the Common Core ideologues to pull the plug on this failed experiment,” Jindal said late Wednesday in a prepared statement.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Wednesday approved state plans to review the standards using four committees of educators and others.

The revisions are supposed to be ready for final BESE approval by December 2016.

ABC PAC leaders in 2011 vowed to spend up to $1 million to elect BESE members sympathetic to their goals of increased school choice and sweeping changes in how public schools are funded.

ABC-backed candidates won in five of seven races.

Then New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s trust donated $100,000 to the group in 2011, sparking complaints by public school groups of outside interference in Louisiana contests.

The website for the group is UnicornsAreNotReal.com.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs. theadvocate.com/politicsblog.

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