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Contending Over Common Core

House Education Committee members worked into the night Wednesday, taking testimony on bills that would halt or slow implementation of Common Core state standards and the accompanying standardized tests.

Louisiana is one of 45 states, plus the District of Columbia, that signed onto Common Core. The state is also one of 17 in a consortium using the PARCC tests to evaluate student progress on the new standards.

Lake Charles Representative Brett Geymann offered legislation that would set up a commission to develop Louisiana’s own standards.

“They would be new standards, but they would be as least as good as what we have now,” Geymann told the committee. He added that commission members would start with Common Core, and add to it.

Scott Richard, director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, says Indiana has already done this.

“For example, they added cursive writing to lower elementary,” Richard said, adding it is something that’s not included in Common Core now.

BESE adopted Common Core in 2010, joining with other states seeking federal “Race to the Top” funds. The standards, developed by education experts from the various states—including Louisiana—sought to establish mutual benchmarks and allow for comparison of students across state lines. State lawmakers put Common Core and PARCC assessments into state law as part of the 2012 education reforms now known as Act 2.

Tempers flared during the course of the long hours of testimony, most notably in an exchange between BESE member Holly Boffy and Metairie Representative Cameron Henry. Boffy said she was upset with lawmakers’ trying to change the policies previously agreed upon.

“I really have an issue with the legislature doing BESE’s job,” Boffy said.

“So what role, as a legislator on the education committee, would you like me to play?” Henry countered.

“The role that you have played in the past,” Boffy responded.

“Which is?”

“Not student standards.”

Most of those who supported the 2012 education reforms, including the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the Council for a Better Louisiana, objected to Geymann’s bill. State Superintendent John White was among those opposed.

“I am left with a question,” White said. “How does this bill help the children of the great state of Louisiana?”

Representative Cameron Henry authored the other bill discussed during the marathon committee meeting, a measure that would prohibit the state’s participation in the PARCC assessments.

Neither Geymann’s nor Henry’s bill could muster enough votes to advance.