Last Modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 11:54 AM
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.”
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.