Our Views: Work out compromise on standards

In strong statements about the battle over higher education standards, business lobbyist Stephen Waguespack has been careful not to mention the name of the principal obstacle to the state’s adoption of Common Core standards.

Gov. Bobby Jindal should be grateful to his former aide, who is now president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

But Waguespack made clear, in statements and in a talk to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge, that LABI continues to stand with the business community in backing the standards adopted four years ago by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The BESE decision has been under fire by Jindal, who flip-flopped on Common Core; at the National Governors Association meeting last weekend, held in Nashville, Tennessee, governors said the issue was “radioactive” among the Republican “base.”

Well, fortunately, despite his recent departure from Team Jindal, Waguespack is worried about Team Education. “Instead of using these last few weeks before the new school year to refine lesson plans, encourage our educators, and inform our parents, we are spending this time telling them we don’t know what standards the students will be held to or what tests they’ll take,” he groused in a statement. “The tireless effort of the last four years to prepare for this moment is now on the verge of being washed away and replaced with something no one can articulate, describe or embrace.”

That is a forthright statement of a problem with Jindal’s position. The school year is an abstraction, unless you are among the thousands of teachers and administrators who see it as an avalanche of dates and deadlines that must be met to have everything ready. Common Core is the plan on the schedule.

Jindal and Education Superintendent John White are scheduled to meet Thursday to talk about their differences on Common Core. We hope, given the administrative urgency of a compromise, that the governor will listen to the advice of his former chief of staff and also the superintendent who has backed Jindal’s education policies in the Legislature and before teacher groups.

In both cases, their loyalty is tested by a governor who is responding to political radioactivity — and failing to recognize the practical consequences of bringing to a screeching halt a major school policy change that has been four years in the making.

We think that, however radioactive an issue Common Core is — it has considerable Republican support across the state and the nation — the governor cannot be fairly criticized if he works out a way for the current testing plans to move forward while engaging in a longer-term debate over alternative ways to achieve higher standards in Louisiana schools.