Two Lafayette legislators skirt Common Core bills

Two Lafayette legislators skirted taking a stance Monday on proposed bills that would tweak or even kill the state’s implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

During a Acadiana Press Club legislative forum, state Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, and state Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, said they’ll reserve opinion on the proposed bills until they see the final versions that make it out of committee.

Cortez said the root of his constituents’ concerns is related to the curriculum used to implement the new standards.

“I have not had one person call to say they’re against higher standards. Many have called to say they’re opposed to some curriculum,” Cortez said.

Robideaux said legislators have been inundated with information about the standards and complaints about its implementation, which was approved by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Some pieces of legislation propose requiring legislative approval of any changes in state learning standards, while other bills propose requiring the state to develop curriculum guides prior to the implementation of new educational standards.

Robideaux said other legislators, such as state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, want to kill Common Core. Geymann also proposed legislation to abolish BESE and transfer the board’s duties to the state superintendent of education, whom he proposes should be elected.

Common Core likely is here to stay, Robideaux said, because a majority of legislators want to find middle ground to address complaints about curriculum and to ensure students are academically prepared to compete with students across the country and world.

“We need to think globally and do what’s in the best interest of the kids,” Robideaux said.

About 30 people attended the forum, including Lafayette Parish School Board member Shelton Cobb, who asked the legislators for their opinion about bills proposed by state Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, that would — by constitutional amendment— enable voters to choose their own School Board governance structure.

For example, voters could change the nine-member elected Lafayette Parish School Board to one that’s overseen by the city-parish president or one that has both elected and appointed members.

Robideaux said Landry was among the other Acadiana legislators unable to attend the Monday forum due to legislative committee meetings and other scheduling conflicts, but it was his understanding that Landry’s intention is to open the door for a conversation about potential governance changes.

“It establishes a committee to determine the best system for our educational system,” Robideaux said.

Robideaux also told Cobb that legislators typically support local bills, if there’s local support for them.

Later, he said a local bill he was asked to sponsor that would give Lafayette police officers an annual 2 percent raise, based on increased sales tax collections, may not make it to committee if the Lafayette City-Parish Council doesn’t endorse it at its meeting Wednesday.

Despite the Common Core debates that will ensue in the coming weeks, Robideaux said, budget talks will likely be more contentious.

Robideaux said maneuvering to cover some holes in the budget — such as removing $50 million from the Ernest Morial Convention Center’s state allocation into the general fund budget and compensating the convention center with $75 million in state bonds for capital outlay projects — likely won’t get far this session.

“It’s using your credit card to pay the bills, but I don’t see it getting out of the House,” said Robideaux, who chairs the joint legislative capital outlay committee.

Robideaux said he expected to receive the capital outlay budget late Monday.

This is Robideaux’s last legislative session. Asked whether he’s planning a run for another office, Robideaux said he’ll make that decision after the session. A potential run for city-parish president in the fall 2015 election to replace term-limited city-parish President Joey Durel is one option, he said.

Local government is a “different animal,” Robideaux said, but Lafayette isn’t an ordinary city.