The legislative session begins next month in Louisiana, and one local politician is preparing to fight what he feels is the state’s biggest issue — the Common Core State Standards.
State Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Moss Bluff, said his main concern about Common Core is that it has taken away the state’s control of education. Geymann said proponents of the standards argue that it’s not a national agenda or national curriculum, but he disagrees.
“You are taking a national test and have to pass that test to be able to compete with the other 49 states,” he said. “So our curriculum is driven by that test. So by default it becomes more national.”
Geymann said he has filed 12 bills dealing with Common Core issues, and several other lawmakers have filed bills as well. The measures include topics such as data collection, testing, whether the state should have Common Core at all and what the state can replace it with, he said.
According to Geymann, each lawmaker has his or her own issues with the standards, but he feels strongly that the state should get rid of Common Core altogether.
Geymann said there’s no reason for Louisiana to be tied to national standards and national testing when the state can accomplish the same thing on its own.
“We can develop a set of standards that have high expectations, have accountability and develop them right here in Louisiana with our experts,” Geymann said. “That way they will fit our culture and our values. Then if we want to make changes, we can make changes.”
Carol Dufrene is one of Geymann’s constituents who supports his cause. Dufrene, a 66-year-old retired nurse, said she isn’t an educator and doesn’t have a political agenda. She’s just a concerned citizen who is disturbed by Common Core, she said.
Dufrene said she first heard of Common Core from her son, who is a teacher. She said she began researching Common Core and became increasingly concerned the more she learned.
“I’ve been researching for well over a year now,” Dufrene said. “I’m staying up at night until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. in the morning because it’s like getting into a rabbit hole. It has lit a fire in me.”
Dufrene said her research has led her on a mission to find the truth about Common Core. The state’s lack of involvement in developing the standards is what has concerned her the most, she said.
“If the Common Core initiative was so wonderful and transparent, why hasn’t someone in this state come forward and said that they helped write these standards?” Dufrene said.
“Why weren’t meetings held within the state and published for comment? Why didn’t parents and educators know anything about Common Core until it reached their desks and kitchen tables? They weren’t state-led, and there is an abundance of documented proof to the contrary.”
Dufrene said she has written letters and emails to many officials, including the governor, superintendent of education, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education president and her local representatives. She uses her Facebook page to make contact with others who share her opposition.
“I am speaking out for the teachers who feel threatened to do so and in support of parents and children and also my grandchildren,” Dufrene said. “Who else is going to question and investigate this charade? Moms, grandmothers and mostly retired educators have stood to speak out in blogs, on Facebook, websites and town hall type meetings. They have no financial backing.”
A tough fight
Geymann said he knows it’s going to be a fight to remove Common Core because so much time and energy has been invested in it already. He also said another issue is that many business leaders are backing Common Core because “talking points are very good.”
According to Geymann, it’s going to take a lot of effort for the opposition to convince them to try something else to get to that same goal. But Geymann said he believes parents are 100 percent for removing Common Core and he thinks that is what will drive the debate in the Legislature.
“This is unlike anything I’ve seen in 11 years that’s coming from the parents that are not necessarily politically active and involved,” Geymann said. “They don’t understand BESE; they don’t even understand how a bill becomes a law. But they know they don’t like this.”
To remove Common Core and replace it with something else, Geymann said, lawmakers need involvement from the community and from people like Dufrene. He said parents, especially those of school-age children, need to pay attention and get involved.
“We need this more so than ever before,” Geymann said. “They need to email and call their elected officials everywhere. The school board, the governors office, BESE board members, etc.”
Geymann said the more responses officials get on an issue, the more they pay attention. “It’s very important for parents and people in the community to get involved on this issue,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s going to be hard to change it.”