Repeal of Common Core shot down again

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS --  The Louisiana State Capitol Show caption
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- The Louisiana State Capitol

Latest bill would have created committee to set goals

Common Core critics suffered their fourth major defeat of the session Thursday when a Senate committee crushed a bid to scrap the national academic standards in favor of new ones drafted by Louisiana parents and educators.

The bill was the last of the sweeping anti-Common Core proposals awaiting action, and means that key bills to drop or revamp the standards and accompanying tests have failed in three House and Senate committees.

The latest measure, Senate Bill 669, was touted as a way to answer complaints about tougher classroom goals in reading, writing and math.

“I can tell you, it won’t go away,” state Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell and sponsor of the bill, said of the criticism.

But the Senate Education Committee voted 6-1 to shelve the measure.

Critics said that, after four years of preparation, launching a new bid to craft meaningful classroom standards would take years and cost state and local education systems millions of dollars.

“Why throw the entire Common Core out?” asked an incredulous state Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe and a panel member.

The House Education Committee earlier rejected a similar bill that would replace Common Core goals with state-produced ones.

Another bill to drop plans for Common Core tests failed in the same committee.

Earlier this week, the House Appropriations Committee narrowly rejected a bill to require approval of Common Core test contracts.

Legislation that would give students and teachers an extra year to prepare for the changes won House approval Wednesday and is awaiting Senate action.

An amendment aimed at imposing new purchasing restrictions on the exams was added to the state’s proposed $25 billion operating budget Thursday.

Its impact is unclear.

SB669 by Crowe, one of the Legislature’s earliest critics of Common Core, would have set up a 21-member committee of parents, educators, and business and community leaders to hammer out new classroom goals and assessments.

Diane Long, a Shreveport native, lifelong state resident and former teacher, praised Crowe’s plan.

“It brings all of the stakeholders to the table that have interests in education,” Long said. “I think it is a wonderful schematic. I think it is something we can work with.”

Michael Faulk, superintendent of the highly rated Central school system, backed the bill.

He said the proposed panel would allow stakeholder input and recognize varying degrees of readiness for Common Core among school districts.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said setting new standards would cost $67 million over five years.

Appel said Indiana, which has dropped plans to use Common Core, is spending $27 million for new assessments alone and could spend up to $100 million more for teacher training and other costs.

Jason Hughes, an official of the New Orleans-based education group Stand for Children, said his organization collected about 6,000 signatures from supporters of Common Core and the tests that go with it.

“There is overwhelming support for Common Core from parents across the state,” Hughes told the committee.

Stephanie Desselle, who follows public school issues for the Council for a Better Louisiana, said the changes would address Louisiana’s longtime low ranking in education attainment.

That includes a ranking of 49th in high school students qualifying for college credit, one of the lowest rates in the nation for earning associate degrees and the fact that one-third of incoming college freshmen require remedial classes.

“We are at a crossroads,” Desselle said. “We can go forward or stand still.”

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted Common Core in 2010 and reiterated that support earlier this year.

It is set to take full effect for the 2014-15 school year.

Crowe said that, while Common Core is well-intended, the bill is aimed at those who are screaming for relief.

However, committee members were skeptical throughout more than three hours of testimony.

State Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, said some parents were critical of tougher academic standards when they were added to classrooms in the Central school system but they have paid dividends.

“You have been very successful because the state pushed for higher standards and the community pushed for higher standards and the parents pushed for higher standards,” White told Faulk.

Voting YES on the motion to shelve SB669 (6): Sens. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte; Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge; Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville; Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe; Bodi White, R-Central; and Conrad Appel, R-Metairie.

The lone opponent of the motion was Sen. Elbert Guillory, R-Opelousas.

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