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Chas Roemer Says Common Core Won't Decide the BESE Elections

Ann Marie Awad

Chas Roemer, the outgoing president of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, announced a week ago he does not plan to run for re-election. Looking ahead to next month’s election, he has some advice for voters.

“I know candidates are limited in the time that they have, and so you’ll hear things like ‘I don’t believe in Common Core, I believe in Common Sense.' You know, I've heard that slogan, I can't remember which candidate even said it. You gotta get past that debate, you gotta get past those slogans and find out what policies are you actually going to promote.”

Roemer says that he doesn’t believe that Common Core will be a deciding factor in the election.

“Common Core, that debate’s been had, we’ve already decided to review it, to make sure that Louisianans are comfortable with the standards we have and that the teachers that have to implement those standards are comfortable with them. I do expect them to be more rigorous than standards we’ve had in the past, but I do expect there to be modifications. So, you know, I don’t think Common Core is the issue in this campaign.”

The BESE-appointed panel reviewing the multi-state standards in English and Math held its first public meeting on August 18th. Education Department officials told Nola.com last month that of the almost 30,000 comments recieved on their website, roughly 80 percent were in support of keeping Common Core.

“Those who indicated they were the most vigorous anti-Common Core folks came to the opening 20-minute introduction and then when we actually broke into work groups to actually review the standards, they left.”

The review panel will have recommendations to BESE in February. That will of course be a whole new BESE board. All eight of BESE’s elected seats are up for grabs in next month’s election. Three other seats will be appointed by the next governor. The current board will serve until January, which is also when State Education Superintendent John White’s contract is up for review.

“I hope to see the same thing that I think we did, which was a very candid and thorough discussion of those things that we think can improve education for kids. I don’t have a preconceived notion of what the answer needs to be.”

A player in this election that is not on the ballot is a grassroots group called Flip BESE, which is calling for an end to high-stakes testing, Common Core, school letter grades, and school vouchers. Essentially all of Roemer’s signature policies. They’ve endorsed candidates in every BESE race, and are calling for a new Superintendent of Education.

“I think our state would make a huge mistake, huge mistake if we decided at this point to change superintendents, for no apparent reason other than it’s been controversial the last four years. Let me make something clear: making progress is difficult in anything you do, and just because it’s difficult, does not mean we ought to quit. And just because there’s political controversy, does not mean we ought to quit. We ought to examine what we’re doing and continue to improve upon it. And John White has done a magnificent job.”

There are four candidates vying for Roemer’s district 6 seat. He has not endorsed any of them.

“You know I’ll give one of them my support, but I don’t know that it’ll be a public endorsement or anything like that.”