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An Education Rogues’ Gallery 2.0: Common Core Edition

This post was originally published on PE+CO: Louisiana Education Legislation Update

The 2014 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature officially convened last week and the looming legislative battle over the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is finally expected to erupt at today’s House Education Committee Meeting.

CCSS has been the focus of ominous headlines in the Times-Picayune (“Common Core likely to push state budget out of spotlight during 2014 legislative session“), The Advocate (“Flurry of bills to address core academic standards“), and the Shreveport Times (“Common Core tops list of educational issues for parents as legislative session nears“) in the past few weeks.

Given all of the attention, one might assume that scores of lawmakers are seeking to reverse or delay Louisiana’s adoption of the standards, when in fact, the opposite is true. Rather, a small handful of legislators have filed literally dozens of bills that seek to undermine Common Core, perhaps in an attempt to create the impression that there is far-greater opposition to CCSS than actually exists in the state.

Although all of these anti-CCSS crusaders were in office when Louisiana first committed to the standards in 2010, none of them raised concerns about Common Core until quite recently. Moreover, when it comes to articulating their reasons for opposing CCSS, they often lapse into diatribes about federal control over public education or raise fears that Common Core will erode student privacy protections – neither of which have any basis in objective reality. As The Advocate insightfully noted in an editorial on CCSS last month:

The criticism appears to be based on mostly inchoate fears of some national bureaucrat telling teachers what to teach. The opposition doesn’t have a message, unless it is that Louisiana’s standing of near last among the states in student achievement is something we should hang on to.

So then what unites these lawmakers in their opposition to Common Core? Nearly all of the anti-CCSS lawmakers in the legislature are Republicans and most have a track-record of espousing extreme right-wing positions that are far outside mainstream public opinion, even for a conservative state like Louisiana.

Below are some of the leading anti-Common Core lawmakers in the legislature.

Rep. Brett Geymann

Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles): As noted previously, Geymann could easily be described as “Public Education Enemy No. 1” and has often trotted out the old states’ rights argument in opposing Common Core – at one point telling The Advocate, “I can give you 50 reasons why it is bad, but the most important to me is we ought to have control over our own education.” Geymann has filed five separate anti-Common Core bills for consideration this session – an effort that could be interpreted as either a “legislative bullying tactic” or a manifestation of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Rep. J. Rogers Pope

Rep. J. Rogers Pope (R-Denham Springs): is co-sponsoring a bill with Rep. Brett Geymann that would throw the state’s entire public education system into disarray by establishing a commission to develop a whole new set of standards.

Rep. Cameron Henry

Rep. Cameron Henry (R-Metairie): Rep. Henry has filed a number of anti-CCSS bills during the upcoming legislative session. Henry told The Advocate, “There is no factual data that proves that Common Core is effective at all” – apparently ignoring the fact that there wasn’t any factual data proving the state’s former standards were effective either.

Rep. Jerome Richard

Rep. Jerome Richard (I-Thibodaux): Even though Richard is one of few independent members of the legislature, that hasn’t stopped him from teaming up with Rep. Cameron Henry to sponsor bills that would prohibit the implementation of the Common Core [Note to Representatives Henry and Richard: CCSS is already being implemented across the state] and the administration of CCSS-aligned PARCC tests.

Rep. Barry Ivey

Rep. Barry Ivey (R-Baton Rouge): Ivey has filed two anti-Common Core bills for this session – one parochial and one redundant. The first requires that the state’s standards be developed by individuals who reside in Louisiana. The second prohibits the sharing of personally-identifiable student information – information that is already protected by both state and federal law.

Rep. John Schroder

Rep. John Schroder (R-Covington): Schroder not only wants to prohibit the administration of CCSS-aligned PARCC assessments, but wants to allow individual districts to develop their own content standards, even though that defeats the purpose of having standards to begin with. (Oh, and he also doesn’t want schools and districts to be held accountable for educating SPED students either.)

Rep. Henry Burns

Rep. Henry Burns (R-Bossier City): Rep. Burns wants to prohibit the administration of Common Core-aligned PARCC assessments in an obvious attempt to undermine Louisiana’s adoption of CCSS. This bill ignores the fact that a majority of the state’s school districts have already invested tens of millions of dollars in technology upgrades needed to administer PARCC tests.

Rep. Bob Shadoin

Rep. Bob Shadoin (R-Ruston): Rep. Shadoin isn’t trying to get rid of CCSS outright, but instead wants the standards phased-in one grade level at a time starting with kindergarten. In effect, the bill would delay the full implementation of Common Core by more than a decade.

You can help make sure that our public education system isn’t hijacked by these rogue lawmakers by sending a message to your elected officials in Baton Rouge telling them that Louisiana needs to stick with Common Core.

Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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