Two reporters Friday were barred from attending the meeting of an obscure state panel reviewing plans for new Common Core tests.
The advisory committee, called the Procurement Support Team, is under Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Division of Administration.
The four-member group was set to meet at 9 a.m. to review the state Department of Education’s proposed request for proposals, or RFPs, for the next round of Common Core exams.
Pamela Rice, assistant director of state procurement, told reporters for The Advocate and The Associated Press that they could not attend the gathering.
“This is not a public body,” Rice said.
Rice cited a state law that she said makes it clear the review panel is different from public bodies.
Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichol’s office said the sessions are routinely closed when RFPs for state contracts are reviewed.
“All of these provisions are highly sensitive,” Nichols’ office said in a prepared statement. “Allowing the public into these meetings could expose sensitive information to competitors and the general public.”
Nichols said four RFPs under review “will result in multimillion-dollar contracts that may last as long as 12 years.”
The Education Department and Jindal’s office have fought for months over the standards, including how the 2015 tests were acquired.
Jindal is pushing legislation to shelve the academic benchmarks in reading, writing and math in favor of new, state-produced standards.
State Superintendent of Education John White is one of Louisiana’s top proponents of Common Core.
White has said he favors tweaking the exams but keeping them aligned to other states so achievement levels can be compared.
Nearly 320,000 students in grades three through eight took the first round of Common Core tests in March.
However, the contract that governed those exams is about to expire, which is why the state Department of Education is seeking bidders for the next round of tests in 2016.
Officials of the Attorney General’s Office, Legislative Fiscal Office, Office of State Procurement and state Department of Education were set to review the plans on Friday.
When a decision will be made is unclear.
A bid by Jindal and other Common Core critics to repeal the standards is expected to be one of the key issues of the 2015 legislative session.
However, none of the bills to shelve the benchmarks have been heard in the House Education Committee.
The session ends on June 11.
The issue surfaced last month when state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, one of the Legislature’s top foes of Common Core, tried to convince the House not to send one of his bills to a potentially hostile committee.
That measure would require the Legislature to approve the standards starting in the 2017-18 school year.
The House rejected Geymann’s request.
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