Governor Candidates Share Common Aversion To Common Core

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — They differ in many ways but the two candidates for governor in Louisiana's Nov. 21 runoff election share an aversion to the Common Core education standards.

         But, after Common Core supporters helped elect a six-member majority to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the question is how much change either Democrat John Bel Edwards or Republican David Vitter would be able to affect in the way the state evaluates and tests students.

         Common Core was developed by a bipartisan group of governors and school officials from around the nation and has been adopted by about 40 states.

         Edwards, a state representative, is among critics who say it was implemented in Louisiana too quickly and with too little input from Louisiana educators.

         Vitter, the state's senior U.S. senator, once supported the standards but now criticizes them as a federal intrusion. The federal government doesn't require Common Core, but the Obama administration has backed it with money.

         The new governor will make three appointments to BESE, but eight members are elected from districts around the state. In the Oct. 24 election, Common Core backers helped elect six BESE members. And they are backing two others in runoffs.

         While BESE sets and implements education policy, the Legislature makes laws affecting education. But, here, too, there are few signs of change. With a handful of races heading for runoffs, there has been little turnover in a Legislature that bucked efforts by outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal to throw out the standards. Common Core champions such as Conrad Appel in the state Senate and Steve Carter in the House were among those re-elected.

         The Legislature made peace with Jindal early this year with a highly touted compromise calling for an extensive review to examine the standards and the tests used by Louisiana to determine whether students are meeting them. Edwards voted for it.

         But as that review process has unfolded, Common Core critics — including both candidates for governor — have openly expressed concern that what will come out of it will be too close to the status quo.

         Edwards, in an Associated Press interview on the subject, struck a hopeful tone.

         "I look forward to the adoption of Louisiana education standards and I look forward to Louisiana developing an assessment to measure student performance on those standards," he said.

         Vitter's tone was more defiant.

         "I've been very clear — and I don't say this as any sort of threat, I've just been very clear — this has to be a sincere effort and not Common Core by another name," he said in a separate AP interview.

         But BESE remains in charge of the final product. The new governor will have veto power — but a veto means the standards and testing revert to what was used this year.

         The BESE elections also appear to increase the job security of state Superintendent of Education John White, a Common Core proponent.

         Edwards has vowed to fight White's reappointment. Vitter declined to say whether he would support another term for White but has also said the superintendent should be committed to getting Louisiana out of Common Core.

         But BESE appoints the superintendent. And it would take eight votes to hire someone new.

         On other education issues there are clearer differences between Edwards and Vitter.

         Both express support for allowing independent charter organizations to run public schools, but Edwards' supports restrictions not favored by Vitter. He's critical of state law allowing BESE to grant charters over the objections of local school boards.

         Vitter wants BESE to maintain its authority to grand charters.

         Edwards has been critical of the state-funded private school tuition voucher program. He said vouchers should be reserved for students who would otherwise be attending failing public schools. Currently, students attending public schools that rate a C grade in the state program are eligible for vouchers.

         Vitter, while echoing the need for accountability, criticized Edwards' position on changing eligibility. "He's clearly going to bit by bit by bit going to cut back … choice opportunities," Vitter said

         – by AP Reporter Kevin McGill




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