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Why is the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents Conspiring to Kill Common Core?

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

A report in The Advocate this morning has brought to light an effort by the leadership of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents (LASS) to cut a back-room deal with Tea Party-aligned lawmakers to kill Common Core.

Will Sentell writes that LASS has been in ongoing negotiations with Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles) and Rep. Rep. J. Rogers Pope (R-Denham Springs), the co-sponsors of House Bill 381, one of the most odious anti-Common Core bills filed for consideration this session. Specifically, the legislation would require Louisiana to drop the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and force the state to draft an entirely new set of standards. The new standards and their accompanying tests would be drafted by a 30-person commission made up of school board members, school district staff, and union officials over the next two years.

The revelation that LASS leaders have been engaged in behind-the-scenes conversations with Geymann and Pope was disclosed in a March 29th letter to members from the organization’s president, Ascension Parish Superintendent Patrice Pujol:

“The leadership of the Superintendents Association has been meeting with Representatives Geymann and Rogers Pope trying to influence a bill that we can all support…. I have attached a copy of the bill… Those of you whose representatives are actually on the committee should reach out to your representative ahead of time and should make every effort to be present at the meeting.”

However, when confronted by The Advocate about the negotiations Pujol “disputed comments that either she or the association have changed positions.” As if to emphasize the point, Pujol has since sent another letter to LASS members stating, “We have not changed our position as an organization.”

La. Association of School Superintendents' Pujol, Faulk, and Hollis have been negotiating with CCSS opponents Rep. Brett Geymann (left) and Rep. J. Rogers Pope on H.B. 381
La. Association of School Superintendents’ Pujol, Faulk, and Hollis have been negotiating with CCSS opponents Rep. Brett Geymann (left) and Rep. J. Rogers Pope on H.B. 381

One would hope not. After all, Louisiana has been in the process of implementing Common Core for well over a year at this point and districts across the state have invested millions of dollars in support of the transition. Furthermore, Louisiana’s educators have spent tens of thousands of hours to learn and adopt the new standards. And just this past week, over 15,000 children across the state took CCSS-aligned PARCC field tests – in effect, a large-scale “dry run” of the new exams that go into effect next year. As State Superintendent John White rightly noted in an statement on the field tests, “Never before has our state had this amount of time and input in preparing for a test.”

Given the tremendous amount of time, energy, and resources Louisiana has invested in CCSS, the fact that LASS leaders would even consider making a Faustian bargain with Tea Party-aligned legislators to kill Common Core defies comprehension. It also represents a complete about-face by LASS’ leaders, Patrice Pujol, West Feliciana Superintendent Hollis Milton, and Central Community Superintendent Mike Faulk, all of whom have gone on record in support of CCSS. For example, in August, The Creole published a letter from Pujol to parents in which she stated:

“We have been transitioning to these new standards for the past three years and are well poised for full implementation this year…. Because we have been gradually transitioning to these new standards, we know our teachers and students are well equipped for success with them.”

Not only does the Central Community School System have a entire section of their website devoted to Common Core, but just last summer, Superintendent Faulk told NBC-affiliate WVLA that Central Community Schools would,

“…be even more focused on preparing everyone for the state’s Common Core Standards and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)…It is important that our district maintains its high standards and rigorous curriculum, and that we are prepared to manage these new standards for the 2013-2014 school year. It’s how we will continue our success.”

Central's Website prominently displays information about Common Core right below information about CCSS-turncoat, Supt. Mike Faulk
Central’s Website prominently displays information about Common Core right below information about CCSS-turncoat, Supt. Mike Faulk

And in October, when the St. Francisville Democrat asked Milton Hollis whether his district has fully embraced Common Core, he stated:

“I believe that the standards implemented properly and with the right degree of support from the state are accepted by most educators at the state and local level…There are definite advantages to the standards and 45 states have chose to adopt.  Many private and parochial schools have adopted the standards as well. By West Feliciana implementing the standards, our students will now compete on a local, national, and global stage.”

Regardless of their previous endorsements of CCSS, the news that Pujol, Faulk, and Hollis are conspiring against the best interests of our students – and potentially throwing the state’s entire public education system into disarray and confusion – requires a response from citizens ahead of tomorrow’s House Education Committee meeting, when H.B. 381 will be up for debate:

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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