Common core clears first hurdle

By By Jim Beam / American Press

Common Core, the controversial education program setting up tougher reading, writing and math standards in the state’s public

schools, survived its first major test last week, but what’s next?

“Not sure yet,” said Rep. Brett

Geymann, the Moss Bluff Republican who has become the champion of the

anti-Common Core forces.

“I have several ideas,” he said, “but I think waiting on the

governor’s next move may be the plan for next week. Of course,

there are other moving parts as well, as you can imagine. But the

issue is still alive for sure.”

Geymann’s main measure in a package of

11 bills related to Common Core went down to defeat after a nearly

eight-hour hearing

last week by the House Education Committee. It would have

abolished Common Core and created the 30-member Students Standards

Commission in the state Department of Education to develop state

standards for required subjects.

The vote to reject Geymann’s bill was

12-7, and legislators on both sides of the issue represent conservative

and liberal

points of view. The quote, “Politics makes strange bedfellows,”

certainly applies here since those involved seldom agree on

other issues.

What do we know about Common Core?

The program was created by the National

Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of

Chief State School

Officers in 48 states. However, President Obama endorsed the

program and that was all opponents needed to label it a federal

takeover of public education in this country. Even Gov. Bobby

Jindal, who initially supported Common Core, uses that excuse

for his newfound — but lukewarm — opposition to the program.

Louisiana implemented the program in

2010, and John White, the governor’s hand-picked state superintendent of

education, has

become Common Core’s chief defender. Jindal also supported most of

the members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary

Education who adopted the program. White and BESE are still

strongly on board.

Business groups and individual

companies support Common Core. It also has the backing of the Council

for a Better Louisiana

and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. Leaders in

business and industry believe it is the answer to the state’s

job needs and the vehicle that can get Louisiana off the bottom of

national education rankings.

Some parents, school superintendents

and teachers oppose the program. They insist the changes were made

without their input.

The superintendents say they want to slow things down. Common Core

is scheduled to be fully implemented in the 2014-15 school

year.

Geymann has been outspoken from the

start, making it clear he wants to get rid of the program. He has an

ally in Rep. Cameron

Henry, R-Metairie, who sponsored a bill that would have prohibited

the state from using a test designed to measure the success

of Common Core. It was also defeated 12-7 in committee.

In early March, Geymann said, “They (the public) just don’t like it. And they are coming 100 miles per hour in wanting us

to get rid of this.”

Henry said, “Just by the number of bills that have been filed and by the significant push by parents throughout the state,

it almost demands that we make some movement in getting parents more comfortable with these standards.”

A majority on the House Education

Committee obviously didn’t agree with Geymann or Henry. And that makes

Jindal’s opposition

even more questionable. He had a heavy hand in naming the chairmen

of the House and Senate education committees who back Common

Core 100 percent. And some of those committee members who voted to

keep the program going would have voted the other way if

Jindal had only asked.

The governor was front and center in

2012 when lawmakers adopted his education reform program. He had lined

up the votes to

get it done long before the two-day hearings got under way. He was

nowhere to be seen last week, and his spokesmen were low-key.

A poll done by the Public Policy Research Lab at the LSU Manship School of Journalism helps explain why Common Core has had

problems. The Advocate said the survey found “that 49 percent of the 1,095 people questioned between Feb. 4 and Feb 24 had

little, if any, familiarity with Common Core.”

A spokesperson for LABI said of the poll, “This survey confirms our belief that if these education standards, had they not

become politicized, would be adopted easily.”

Geymann says the issue isn’t dead and

he is waiting on the governor’s next move. He may be right on the first

count, but Jindal’s

heart and mind seem to be totally dedicated to his presidential

ambitions. The only major moves he is making these days are

on the national scene with his sights set on the White House.

The Common Core situation is almost identical to Obamacare, the president’s health care law. A sizable number of people don’t

like either one, but both programs appear to be here to stay. Some modifications might be possible, but that may be as far

as it gets.

For our children’s sake, let’s hope Common Core delivers what its supporters promise. Their future is riding on its success.