The Louisiana lawmaker who has led the fight against Common Core for several years in his state says the final deal agreed to in the legislature “gives us everything we asked for” and proves that “passionate” engagement by citizens is what makes the difference.
In an email interview with Breitbart News, Louisiana Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles) said the often intensely bitter battle to extricate his state from the Common Core standards has resulted in a big win for opponents of the controversial education reform.
Though Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) initially expressed concerns about the compromise legislation, he ultimately endorsed it.
“We are pleased to have the full support of Governor Jindal on the Common Core compromise,” Geymann said. “The package of bills lays out a clear path for developing our own standards in an open and transparent process that allows for input from parents, teachers, and stakeholders in a way that has never been done before.”
Geymann added that the Jindal administration, parents, educators and legislators worked for many long hours on the compromise bills.
“Our efforts have resulted in a process that gives us complete control of our standards, provides an opportunity to hold our elected officials accountable for the new standards, and removes us from PARCC,” he explained.
PARCC refers to the Partnership for the Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers, one of the two federally funded consortia that have been developing interstate tests aligned with the Common Core standards.
The “compromise” is actually a set of three bills.
Geymann authored the first bill that “provides for the implementation of state content standards for public school students subject to legislative approval.”
The measure requires that upon adoption of new standards the state’s Administrative Procedures Act (APA) process would begin, allowing a 90-day public comment period and legislative committee oversight. The Governor will have the authority to veto any proposed standards changes.
Kathryn Goppelt of Louisiana Core observes to Breitbart News the importance of this legislation.
“Previously, all standards in Louisiana were developed through this procedure by policy, not law,” she states. “When the Common Core standards were adopted it was the first time the APA policy of the Louisiana Department of Education (LADOE) was ignored.”
A bill authored by Senate Education Committee chairman Sen. Conrad Appel (R) allows the Governor to veto the proposed standards as a package, without line item veto power.
A third bill authored by state Rep. John Schroder (R) requires the Department of Education to contract with another vendor other than PARCC for assessments for the 2015-2016 school year.
“This bill limits assessment questions, to not more than 49.9% that can be based on the blueprint developed through the PARCC process or processes conducted by a federally funded consortium of states,” Goppelt states. “In essence, we will have a test that has PARCC questions, but not be provided or contracted with PARCC that is federally funded.”
Supporters of Common Core can take comfort that the deal states the standards will be used in Louisiana public schools for at least one more year, until new standards are developed by a review board.
It is the review board issue that was the focus of much of the controversy over the legislation, since members have been recommended by their school districts and chosen by pro-Common Core state superintendent John White.
“Currently, a majority of proposed members chosen are known to be pro-Common Core,” Goppelt notes. “The legitimacy of the review is in question because of the formation of this board. Work begins on the standards no later than July 1 and the proposed standards are to be adopted by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) at their March 2016 meeting.”
The state legislature must review the standards, and the Governor must approve or veto them no later than June of 2016. If the Governor vetoes, the process of writing the standards must begin again.
“Indiana, Tennessee and South Carolina have all had standards review and ended up with 80-90% of their standards aligned to Common Core,” Goppelt states. “Louisiana citizens do not want a rebrand, but that is a real possibility.”
Both Geymann and Goppelt also note that Common Core opponents agreed to the compromise with the knowledge that the elections held in the fall of 2015 could well be in their favor.
“The new BESE, the new state legislature, and a new Governor would all be sworn in mid-January of 2016,” Geymann told Breitbart News.
He himself will not be returning to the legislature due to term limits.
“This compromise gives our elected officials political cover and kicks the can down the road to a new BESE, Legislature and Governor,” Goppelt notes.
Geymann added, “After years of battling to rid our state of Common Core through the legislative process and the courts, this agreement gives us everything we asked for and proves that if we get passionately engaged in the process we can make a difference.”
Sara Wood, an attorney and Louisiana parent grassroots activist, tells Breitbart News the effort for the compromise package in her state has been one of “pulling out from under a state of lawlessness and chaos resulting from a legal, loophole-leadership style sought by the cronies and elitists that control the direction of our state.”
“Though it is far from a victory in removing Common Core this legislative session, it is progress toward maintaining the momentum and continuing to grow the movement,” she added. “We did not get here overnight and so unfortunately, the road to success will not be traveled overnight either.”
In a statement to Breitbart News, communications director for Jindal, Mike Reed, said, “We are supportive of this compromise now that the Superintendent and BESE have listened to the concerns of parents, legislators and the administration about the make-up of the standards review commission. The next step will be to elect leaders who are committed to getting rid of Common Core.”
Jindal has involved himself in several lawsuits in an effort to rid Louisiana of the Common Core standards.
Wood observes the significance of the compromise in terms of how Common Core came to be adopted in Louisiana in the first place.
“The ‘Common Core Compromise’ closes the loophole that was utilized to bring Common Core to Louisiana by its State Superintendent with a complicit majority on the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE),” she states. “It clarifies by requiring the pre-Common Core application of our Administrative Procedures Act to the development, review and adoption of state content standards.”
The oversight by the legislature and the Governor’s veto power over the final standards, Wood says, is an important win, though she admits Common Core opponents will need the involvement of more parents and teachers in the process in order to achieve their final goal.
“Their involvement in effective numbers will hopefully expose to this panel and BESE the undeniable and specific deficiencies with enough public pressure to correct the many wrongs of the Common Core,” she added.