Louisiana U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R), also a 2015 gubernatorial candidate, came out this week in strong support of the Common Core standards.
His remarks praising the controversial initiative, however, have drawn responses suggesting he either lacks knowledge about the issues surrounding it or has made a fast political calculation, perhaps due to the promise of funding for his campaign from big business champions of the Common Core.
On Friday, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Vitter offered definitive support for the controversial Common Core standards, a position that puts him at odds with Gov. Bobby Jindal, some state lawmakers, and grassroots groups of parents who have organized against the nationalized education initiative.
“I support the strong standards Louisiana now has in place and think Gov. Jindal’s attempt to start from scratch right before the new school year is very disruptive,” Vitter said.
Vitter repeated his comments during a recent interview taped for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers,” which will air Sunday. In the interview, the senator again described the standards as “very strong, significant, positive standards.”
In keeping with the strategy of ardent Common Core supporters, Vitter blames poor state implementation of the standards for the strong opposition to them by parents and teachers.
Vitter said in the interview:
I strongly support the Common Core standards, when you actually look at the standards – which is what Common Core is about – people who really read them, that may not be a whole, whole, whole lot [chuckles], but when you look at them I think they’re very strong, significant, positive standards. The key is being aggressive at the state level in implementation.
However, Vitter then made a statement during the C-SPAN interview that suggests a lack of awareness of the issues surrounding the Common Core, including increased federal control of states through Race to the Top funding and No Child Left Behind waivers, as well as control of curriculum through the textbook companies.
Vitter goes on to say how he would be “aggressive” in implementing the Common Core as governor:
Number one, planning and implementation so nobody’s caught off-guard and surprised and there’s plenty of preparation in the classroom. Giving teachers the help they need, et cetera. Number two, retaining state and local control of curriculum and reading lists.
While it is unclear how Vitter believes states can retain local control of curriculum and reading lists given how the standards, the assessments, and the teaching materials and textbooks are tied together, what is perhaps even more surprising is his dramatic change of heart.
In a fundraising email to supporters of his gubernatorial campaign, Vitter recently wrote, “I am prepared to lead on these issues as Governor – to get our economy moving, hold the line on taxes, and protect our citizens from ObamaCare, the president’s insane environmental regulations, heavy-handed big government education policies like ‘Common Core,’ and all the rest.”
Writing at The Advocate, Quin Hillyer asserts that Vitter’s strong embrace of the nationalized standards is “ignorant and probably somewhat Machiavellian, as he knows darn well that big-money interests line up overwhelmingly behind the Core.”
Observing the comments about Common Core by both Vitter and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne (R), also a gubernatorial candidate, Hillyer states:
I’d like to see either of them explain what makes the Core, in Vitter’s words, “very strong, significant, positive standards.” I guarantee they aren’t using Common Core arithmetic when adding up the donations they hope to get from the business community in return for this stance. It would take too long, and their astronomical numbers would probably be in error.
At The Hayride, Scott McKay also weighed in on Vitter’s stark support of the Common Core.
“He did it because he’s running for governor next year, and it’s absolutely in his interest to take that position regardless of how hot or controversial an issue Common Core is,” writes McKay, who goes on to describe the influence of Vitter’s recent meet-ups with Louisiana’s “power brokers.”
McKay also observes the fact that “Vitter and Jindal have never been political allies,” and Vitter is trying to assert that, as governor, he will not be another Jindal.
The question is whether Vitter and whatever big business support he has snagged will be able to beat out the fervor of grassroots organizations of parents, teachers, and other citizens, and the lawmakers who represent them.
“I am very disappointed in the position Vitter has taken on Common Core and it comes as a great surprise since he has historically been the conservative voice and recently opposed it in a fundraising letter,” Louisiana State Rep. Brett Geymann (R) told Breitbart News. “He has certainly abandoned the parents who have fought so hard to move away from Common Core as so many other states are doing.”
“It makes you wonder why someone like Vitter would have taken this position as it seems to be counter to his past conservative values and since most conservative groups around the country have become outspoken critics of Common Core,” Geymann added. “I suspect there will be many folks who will be searching for a candidate for Governor now.”
Parent organizer and attorney Sara Wood also told Breitbart News that she believes Vitter’s high praise of Common Core will cost him the governor’s race.
“What can I say to such a stupid response from such an intelligent and influential person?” Wood said. “For Sen. Vitter to give these unproven standards such high praise, as if the battle surrounding the Common Core Standards is over ‘just standards’ that we can control so long as we read them, is absolutely preposterous.”
“Vitter’s statements in support of the Common Core standards give the appearance of either ignorance, or external and powerful influence over him by big business controlling our state and beyond,” Wood continued. “In my opinion, it may be a little of both. To frame the conversation in the same manner as its promoters, shows that he has little to no understanding of the very real concerns about Common Core.”
Similarly, parent organizer and physician Anna Arthurs – a longtime supporter of Vitter’s – said she was “disheartened to say the least” about the senator’s significant support of Common Core.
“This action shows that Sen. Vitter has chosen to side with big business and his political financial backers instead of with his true, conservative Republican base,” Arthurs said. “Eric Cantor also did this, and we know what happened in his race. Big business might be able to finance a campaign, but there are only so many votes that it can buy for a candidate.”
Arthurs said she would like to hear Vitter detail why he views the controversial standards as “very strong, significant, positive standards,” when even one of the developers of the Common Core himself admitted the standards would not prepare students for STEM fields or selective four-year colleges.
“If Vitter believes people in Louisiana, rather than Washington bureaucrats, can make the best decisions regarding their children’s education, then it is not possible for him to support the initiative associated with Common Core,” Arthurs added. “Since standards drive curriculum, control over curriculum lies with those who develop and own the standards. That control used to be in Louisiana.”
Breitbart News received no response to a request for comment from Vitter’s office.
Vitter’s remarks in strong support of Common Core come as several lawsuits have been filed with the standards initiative as their focus.
On Tuesday, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) administration filed a lawsuit to invalidate the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the PARCC Common Core test consortium on the basis that the MOU attempts to improperly delegate the constitutional authority of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the state legislature to a consortium of other states.
On the same day, BESE voted to join a lawsuit against Jindal that is being funded by The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and claims Jindal is illegally trying to remove the state from the controversial nationalized standards and their aligned assessments.
In addition, two weeks ago 17, Louisiana lawmakers also filed a lawsuit in Baton Rouge district court that seeks an immediate suspension of the Common Core standards in the state’s schools.