Lafayette chamber supports Common Core and wants Acadiana legislators to know

The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce plans to meet with Acadiana legislators Tuesday to make it known the local business group supports Common Core, the subject of what are expected to be controversial hearings at the Capitol this week on bills to rework or halt implementation of the national academic standards in Louisiana.

“The business community in the Lafayette area is overwhelmingly supportive of Common Core State Standards,” Chamber President and CEO Jason El Koubi said Monday in a meeting with local media to discuss the chamber’s stance on the issue.

He said chamber lobbyists and several board members plan to meet Tuesday with members of the Acadiana legislative delegation.

Louisiana and 44 other states have adopted Common Core, and the new standards are set to take effect statewide next school year.

Common Core has drawn protests from opponents who argue the national standards take control of public schools away from state and local officials.

Supporters say the standards, which set goals but not curriculum, are needed to turn around a state public education system that consistently falls near the bottom in national rankings.

“It’s about creating a high school diploma that really counts,” said C.H. Fenstermaker & Associates Chairman and CEO Bill Fenstermaker, a chamber member who also serves on the state Board of Regents.

He said adhering to good national standards is critical because Louisiana students need to compete on a global scale.

“I think it’s important now more than ever, because we are in an international world economy,” Fenstermaker said.

El Koubi and Fenstermaker were joined Monday by chamber board member and United Way of Acadiana President and CEO Margaret Trahan.

Trahan said she understands that implementing new academic standards can be a difficult change, requiring more work from teachers and parents.

“I think it’s something we are just going to have to bite the bullet and do,” she said.

State Superintendent of Education John White backs Common Core, and the new standards are supported by several business groups, including the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and chambers in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Shreveport and Lafayette.

El Koubi said the issue is two-fold for the business community: It’s difficult to attract employees and new businesses to a state with a poor public education system, and existing businesses need a well-educated workforce to thrive.

“The quality and availability of workers has become a top issue for employers in the Lafayette area,” he said.

Common Core standards are among eight legislative priorities the chamber has identified for the current session.

The chamber also has announced support for higher education funding, efforts to align degree programs with the needs of business, school choice and charter schools, funding for Interstate 49 South, business-friendly tort reform, and Act 1 of 2012 — legislation that removed some of the job protections for teachers and shifted final approval of hiring and firing decisions in public school systems from school boards to superintendents.

The legislation has been challenged in court.