Common Core ‘pause’ in works

Superintendents statewide are negotiating with sponsors of a bill that critics said would end Common Core in Louisiana, triggering charges Monday of backroom dealmaking on the eve of a key vote.

The proposal, House Bill 381, would set up a 30-member panel of educators to draft standards that would replace the national academic goals that Louisiana and 44 other states have adopted.

The measure is sponsored by state Reps. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, and J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs.

Patrice Pujol, president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said in a note to fellow superintendents that the leadership of her group “has been meeting with Representatives Geymann and Rogers Pope trying to influence a bill that we can all support.”

Pujol noted that, under the plan, the state would retain the current assessments, including LEAP and iLEAP, while new standards, assessments and curricula are being developed.

“This is a critical issue for our schools and students and we need to get it right,” she wrote.

In an interview, Pujol disputed comments that either she or the association have changed positions.

She said the group backs the Common Core standards, but favors a “pause” on the national test, which is run by a consortium called PARCC.

However, Common Core backers said any support for the Geymann-Pope bill equates to doing away with the standards and assessments in favor of an unwieldy commission drafting new ones, and making them subject to legislative approval.

Officials also said they were surprised by the superintendents’ stance, especially since Pujol has made pro-Common Core statements in the past to parents, the state’s top school board and in other settings.

“Patrice has been implementing it in Ascension for a number of years and has been one of the biggest proponents.” said Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and a Common Core backer.

Common Core represents new standards in reading, writing and math that are set to take full effect for the 2014-15 school year.

However, the Geymann-Pope bill and others to revamp or repeal the overhaul take center stage at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the House Education Committee, which is set to hear testimony for much of the day.

The superintendents’ stance sparked charges of backroom dealing Monday among Common Core backers.

Officials of the Council for a Better Louisiana, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, and Stand for Children issued a statement Monday that said 27 groups had signed on to a “no deals” stance.

“We are just hearing from legislators that people are trying to make deals on Geymann’s bill,” said Barry Erwin, president of CABL.

Erwin said Geymann’s proposal “is the worst bill out there. It wipes out Common Core.”

Pujol said her group has not decided whether to endorse the Geymann-Pope bill.

“We would not be opposed if they want to review the standards, make a few tweaks,” she said. “But we support a high set of standards. We feel like our kids can do it.”