Louisiana Gubernatorial Hopeful Denounces Common Core

Published February 1, 2015

In 2012, Louisiana lawmakers, backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, adopted federal education standards, joining the ranks of most states nationwide. Now, following a downward trend in Common Core popularity, some big name politicians have switched sides.

Since supporting Common Core’s adoption in the state, Jindal has been involved in three court cases to block aspects of the standards and challenge their legality.

Following Jindal’s example, Louisiana Sen. David Vitter has publicly denounced Common Core. Vitter is running for governor in 2015 and wants to stop the implementation of the K-12 math and English standards.

In a statement to supporters Dec. 1, Vitter emphasized his long-term support of, “local control over curriculum and course material, making the right choices regarding those things and truly partnering with parents and teachers in implementation.”

Vitter cites the testimony of “literally thousands of parents, teachers, and others,” pushing him to remove his support of Common Core as it is “causing deep frustration and worse in many classrooms and homes.”

Political Positioning, Parent Voices 

Growing opposition to Common Core nationwide among voters is a significant backdrop for upcoming elections.

“Vitter’s change of heart on the issue is obviously significant,” said Kevin Kane, president of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. “He’s a very smart politician so I’m sure he’s done his homework and concluded, running for governor, his chances are much better if he’s on the record being opposed to Common Core.”

There is at least partially a political motivation for both Jindal and Vitter, Kane said.

“Jindal is thinking nationally; maybe running for president… to be a viable candidate in a national race in the Republican Party,” Kane said. “Vitter is a mirror image—a senator running for governor.”

Parents have stood up with concerns since Common Core homework started coming home.

“The town hall meetings around the state have been very well attended with crowds in the hundreds including one with over 800 in attendance,” said Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Calcasieu and Beaurgard). “The stories are the same from the parents and teachers who come to share their frustration and learn how to get involved in removing Common Core from our state.”

“There has been a core group of legislators who have responded to the failures of the top down government promoted reforms adopted some years ago, beginning with Race to the Top,” said Lee Barrios, a Louisiana grassroots education activist. “Although they initially signed on—either out of political pressure or in sincere hopes that the reforms could bring about positive change, they are now willing to acknowledge they were railroaded and misled and want control back in the local hands of parents, qualified educators and taxpayers.”

“Regardless of how one feels about Common Core itself it is a problem that schools have invested a lot of time and money and now there are doubts,” Kane said.

Discussing State-Developed Standards 

If elected, Vitter has vowed to direct the development of new state standards and has supported a bill to drive that forward momentum.

Introduced in the Senate by Vitter Dec. 2, the “Local Control of Education Act” would, “prohibit the Federal Government from mandating, incentivizing, or coercing states to adopt the Common Core Standards or any other specific academic standards…”

In his supporters’ statement, Vitter lists a series of actions to ensure standards remain local. First, he recommends a panel of Louisiana parents, teachers, education experts and business leaders convene to “develop an updated system of rigorous Louisiana standards and testing outside of Common Core/PARCC.”

Vitter then describes an “inclusive, transparent, and democratic” adoption process and “methodical manner” of implementation as opposed to Common Core.

“Those running for office are now beginning to pay attention to the promise of the opposition to hold elected officials accountable and make the removal of Common Core a priority issue in the upcoming elections,” Geymann said. “This has been a great exercise in democracy when the regular folks can take on the elite and push them into a corner.”

Superintendent of Education John White remains in support of the federal standards, along with most members of the state’s board of education.

Ashley Bateman ([email protected]) writes from Alexandria, Virginia.

Image by Derek Bridges.