Our Views: Strong core in BESE vote

By a 3-6 vote, the state’s top school board has rejected a disruptive proposal to abandon Common Core tests for the school year now underway.

It is the right call by the majority. We commend them for refusing to buckle to pressure from Gov. Bobby Jindal.

An unusual alliance, to say the least, has sprung up among teacher unions and Jindal over the issue of Common Core. The minority consists of two union-allied elected board members, frequent critics of the governor’s policies and state Superintendent John White. A third vote is Jane Smith, the former legislator given several lucrative appointments by Jindal and now one of his appointees on BESE.

The best argument that the dissidents could muster was that the school year is beginning and teachers need certainty on test plans for the school year.

We think that is the best possible argument against derailing the Common Core transition, which has been in place for several years.

The disruptive force in this is not Common Core, the higher academic standards developed by most of the states — not, as Jindal says falsely, the U.S. government.

The disruptive force is Jindal and his new-found allies on the issue. Jindal seeks to use his power over contracts to block adoption of Common Core tests for the school year.

White said that, without a test contract and a vendor, the key hurdle is the logistics associated with giving tests, training teachers, scoring the results and analyzing them. “It’s all the other services that is the problem,” he said.

A tangle of lawsuits disputes the tactics of the governor and the authority of the BESE members — who are constitutionally supposed to drive education policy. So far, the backers of Common Core are ahead in courtrooms, with one lawsuit against BESE dismissed and another backing Common Core allowed to proceed in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge.

To call all this a gubernatorial coup is not too far from the truth, given the sharp reversal of the governor’s position.

It is an example of the governor putting politics ahead of policy. For whatever reasons, Common Core is now a touchy subject among conservative activists in the GOP.

What hasn’t changed is the several years of preparation and preliminary tests of tests, using the new higher standards. School systems and many, if not most, private and parochial schools are proceeding with developing their own curricula to meet the higher academic bar.

That argues for staying the course and working out the test issues in line with existing state law, not folding like a cheap suit at the menace of the governor’s frown.

We applaud the BESE members for sticking to principle.