Just a year ago last week, two key anti-Common Core bills died in the Louisiana House Education Committee, twin blows from which opponents never recovered.
Has sentiment changed since then?
A new push to scrap Common Core will be launched when the 2015 legislative session begins April 13, and this time, Gov. Bobby Jindal says he plans to make the repeal effort a top priority.
However, backers say they do not think opinions have changed much since the committee rejected high-profile bills to scrap the standards and the tests that go with them.
The defeats were the first of a wave of defeats that swamped Common Core opponents.
House Education Committee Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, said he remains a Common Core backer and hopes a majority of his panel is, too. “But you know we will just have to wait and see,” Carter said.
State Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, sponsor of last year’s bill that would have shelved the standards, said his side again faces hurdles.
“I think the committee is still going to be a challenge for us,” Geymann said. “But the fact that it is an election year and the pressure from parents across the state will give us a little bit of momentum.”
Both votes last year were 12-7 against the proposals — House Bill 381 by Geymann and House Bill 558 by state Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie.
Six Republicans and one no-party member voted for both measures, attacking Common Core.
Six Republicans and six Democrats cast “no” votes, sustaining the standards.
After those and other defeats, Geymann, Jindal and others tried to scuttle Common Core through the courts without success.
The new standards in reading, writing and math took hold for the 2013-14 school year.
Nearly 320,000 students in grades three through eight took the first round of Common Core tests last month.
In a replay of 2014, the House Education Committee likely will be the site of the initial showdown in this year’s debate.
State Rep. Wesley Bishop, D-New Orleans and a committee member, voted against both anti-Common Core bills last year. “I am a supporter of Common Core,” Bishop said.
State Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge and another committee member, also opposed the two measures last year.
Smith said Common Core needs to be tweaked, not dumped.
State Reps. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, and Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, who opposed both anti-Common Core bills last year, made similar comments.
On the other side, Henry said cheerfully that he remains so opposed to Common Core that a reporter need never ask him that question again.
State Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, like Henry a committee member, voted for both bills last year and is even more fervent this time.
Burns said so many states have dropped out of the testing consortium — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — that it will be hard to compare students in Louisiana and elsewhere.
“The purpose of it was to see how our young people, our students, were performing comparatively speaking,” said Burns, a Bossier Parish School Board member for 15 years.
“There is not much comparatively speaking anymore,” he said.
Jindal announced last month that he will back bills that would scrap Common Core and replace it with 2004 public school standards temporarily.
However, even if any anti-Common Core bill clears the House, chances are slim that it would emerge from the Senate Education Committee.
That panel is chaired by Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, a backer of the standards.
“I would just say, generally, we feel pretty good about where we are with the Education committees,” said Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, a Baton Rouge-based policy advocacy group and Common Core supporter.
Three of the committee’s 19 members are off the panel — state Reps. Simone Champagne, R-Jeanerette; Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City; and Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge.
All three voted against the anti-Common Core bills.
Replacements include state Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, whom Common Core backers consider an ally.
Another new member is Rep. Jeff Hall, D-Alexandria, a freshman lawmaker who said he favors tweaking Common Core, not dropping it.
Whether a 19th member will be added is unclear.
Three of four contenders for governor oppose Common Core, including state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite.
Edwards, a panel member who backed both bills last year, said while he reserves the right to review any such bills, his concerns about the standards have not changed.
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