State lawmakers discuss Common Core

By By John Guidroz / American Press

The Common Core educational standards will likely be one of the big issues legislators will tackle once the session begins

March 10, three Southwest Louisiana state lawmakers said Wednesday.

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, Rep. Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, and Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Lake Charles, spoke about

Common Core and other issues during a legislative breakfast hosted by the Family and Youth Counseling Agency.

The state Board of Elementary and

Secondary Education agreed to delay having it affect school letter

grades, teacher evaluations

and student promotion for two years. But some lawmakers have said

they plan to file legislation that would repeal Common Core.

While Kleckley has not taken a position on the issue, he said he has heard a variety of viewpoints on Common Core.

“I have a hard time supporting anything that comes from the federal government,” he said. “But the fact is that we have to

increase our standards here in Louisiana.”

Danahay said the Department of Education “failed us” in terms of implementing Common Core. He said it should have been phased

in so that students would be better prepared to handle more rigorous education standards.

“They came in and just dropped it into

the (school) systems,” he said. “They gave no guidance as to how to

develop the curriculum

because the curriculum is supposed to be developed on the local

level.”

Johns said there are “so many misconceptions” regarding Common Core, including one stating that it is a federal curriculum.

He said it is a set of standards that school systems have to meet.

Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Tuesday

that his spending plan would increase higher education funding by $142

million, but Johns

said that amount “is not quite enough.” Nearly $90 million of that

total would come from tuition increases on students that

lawmakers already approved.

“We basically will be stopping the bleeding,” Johns said. “I hope that as we go in future years we can start replenishing

what we have cut in the past years.”

Other issues

Kleckley also talked about the need to

provide enough skilled workers to accommodate for the industrial

expansion projects

slated for the region. He said McNeese State University President

Philip Williams told him the university produces only one-third

of the engineers needed to fill that need.

“We’ve got to open up that pipeline and unjam the backlog so we can move forward,” he said.

Because this year is a general session, Danahay said there will likely be “a lot of posturing going on,” with some term-limited

lawmakers filing legislation because they are seeking another office.

“You’ll start seeing some bills being filed that normally you would not see (and) sometimes put legislators in an uncomfortable

position because they’re wedge issues,” he said.

Johns he is pleased that Congress has approved funding to provide a veterans clinic in Lake Charles. He said federal officials

are looking at existing facilities within the area and “are leaning against building an entirely new complex.”

Johns said the privatization of Moss Regional Hospital has been working well because local residents do not have to travel

to New Orleans or Shreveport for services like cardiology and orthopedics.

“Those people are getting good quality care right here in Southwest Louisiana,” he said. “I think we’ve done the right thing

for our constituents.”

The legislative session ends June 2.