Though Louisiana U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R) continues to support the Common Core standards, he has sent a letter to the state Department of Education superintendent urging the state to halt designating the Common Core-aligned Eureka Math program as the preferred curriculum.
According to Vitter’s website, he sent a letter on Monday to state Superintendent John White, referencing “local control over curriculum, alternatives to Eureka Math.”
“I am very concerned with the extreme difficulty and frustration many students and parents are having with Eureka Math,” Vitter’s letter states. “And I believe this experience illustrates that, while local control over curriculum is the rule in theory, it is clearly not fully or adequately protected and implemented in practice.”
“As you know, the Eureka Math curriculum is not mandated per se. But it is the only math curriculum designated as Tier 1 by your department,” the Senator continued. “As a practical matter, this has caused many local systems to feel pressured to adopt it, particularly smaller systems with very limited curriculum review and development resources.”
“To correct this, I strongly urge your department to aggressively emphasize and protect local control over curriculum,” Vitter wrote, and added three particular actions he would like White’s education department to take:
1) Stop designating Eureka Math as the preferred curriculum in any way.
2) Ensure that local school systems have all appropriate resources to identify several strong math curricula, including those that use no elements of Eureka Math.
3) Ensure that Louisiana’s testing regime in no way disadvantages students taught under these non-Eureka Math alternatives.
As NOLA.com reports, Vitter, who has announced plans for a bid for governor in 2015, sent his letter immediately following a decision by the St. Tammany Parish School Board to drop Eureka Math – also known as Engage New York – from the district’s curriculum by the next school year. The school board heard from numerous Common Core opponents, who argued that Eureka Math’s problems are confusing and overly complex.
In response to Vitter’s letter, White reportedly noted that it is Louisiana state law for local school boards to “determine the curriculum best for their communities.”
White added that Louisiana State University and the Department of Education will continue to train educators on the LSU-developed Eureka Math, but that his department has added another Tier 1 math curriculum for grades K-2, and expects to add another curriculum for grades K-5 to that tier, as well.
“We will also continue to insist, as you urge, that state tests be aligned to high expectations for our students’ skills and not to any particular curriculum,” White wrote. “This is the case now in Louisiana and will continue to be in years hence.”
As Breitbart News reported in August, Vitter stunned his supporters when he announced his strong support for the controversial Common Core standards.
Vitter’s announcement then, however, and his current statement to White, have enraged Common Core opponents, who view him as either deliberately attempting to confuse Louisiana citizens about his position on the education initiative, or is failing to understand the issues surrounding the Common Core, particularly the increased federal control of the states. This federal control involves Race to the Top funding and No Child Left Behind waivers, as well as curriculum through both the federally-funded Common Core-aligned testing and the textbooks, published by companies that stand to reap significant profits from sales to school districts that feel compelled to purchase them.
In August, columnist Quin Hillyer, writing at The Advocate, observed 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.”
Sen. Vitter’s office did not respond to Breitbart News’ attempt to obtain his comments on the issue.
“I am just so disgusted with Sen. Vitter’s actions relative to the serious issues surrounding the Common Core,” Sara Wood, parent activist and attorney, told Breitbart News. “All I see in his letter regarding Eureka Math is a disingenuous attempt to act as if he cares for what parents and children are suffering from this top-down initiative that is so much more than just standards.”
“His letter is yet another example of Sen. Vitter dancing around a very critical topic in the lives of our children for purely political reasons, and he is no Fred Astaire at all,” Wood added. “So it is pathetic to watch because he is fooling no one but himself.”
“What I find very interesting is that Sen. Vitter lists several reasons in his letter to Mr. White as to why he believes Eureka Math should no longer be the sole Tier 1 math curriculum in Louisiana,” parent activist and physician Anna Arthurs told Breitbart News. “However, he has never offered his reasons for his strong support of the Common Core standards.”
“When he first announced his support of the Common Core, he referred to them as ‘strong, significant standards,'” Arthurs explained. “He has been asked several times by his constituents, including myself, to say what makes them strong and significant, and what research has led him to this conclusion, but he has yet to let us know.”
Arthurs said that Eureka Math is just one of many problems with the Common Core initiative.
“That is what happens when the control of education resides with nonprofits and trade organizations in Washington, D.C., rather than at the local level where it belongs,” she said.
Louisiana state Rep. Brett Geymann (R), who recently organized a town hall meeting on the Common Core issue, attended by more than 800 parents, teachers, and citizens, also spoke to Breitbart News about Vitter’s actions.
“Attacking Eureka Math is just trying to find a cure for one of the symptoms, while not addressing the disease,” he said. “There will be many more problems to come until we take control back of our educational system.”
“Mr. Vitter has stated his strong support for Common Core, and he continues to show a lack of understanding of the real issue,” Geymann asserted. “I don’t think the opposition crowd will be fooled by this.”