In living memory in the State Capitol, the idea of taking a bill out of a committee and ushering it directly to the House floor is without precedent. Yet this surprise move over the Common Core academic standards got far more votes than it should have, with 37 in favor and 61 opposed.
The opponents included some members, of more experience, who were obviously concerned about the impact of the maneuver on the committee system.
In raw political terms, the notion that controversial matters could be taken up by the full House without the consideration and debate at committee level exposes members to grave risks, voting for or against something without the measure having been closely examined by colleagues.
If it was an unprecedented throw of the dice in terms of the rules, this maneuver also exposed a sense of desperation on the part of opponents of Common Core.
The leadership and a majority of the House Education Committee have rejected anti-Common Core bills by Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, and others before.
Geymann called that unfairness. It may be just that the majority doesn’t agree with him.
His House Bill 373 would require that, starting with the 2017-18 school year, the standards would need the approval of the Legislature.
If Geymann’s motion to discharge the bill from House Education was a remarkable maneuver, the idea that the Legislature should intervene in academic standards is also a pretty dramatic change.
The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education as part of the 1974 constitution has traditionally made such decisions. It is composed of both eight elected members and three appointed by the governor.
And for the moment, unless this fall’s elections change things, and a new governor makes new appointments in the spring, the BESE majority continues to back new higher academic standards — the Common Core.
Further, despite Geymann’s angst, the BESE members have put together a teacher-led review process to improve on the original Common Core standards, developed by a group of state education leaders. Not the federal government, not President Barack Obama, but state leaders.
That Common Core is not a matter of crisis is shown by the widespread acceptance of the new standards, although in a few places — including Geymann’s Calcasieu district — some parents pulled their children from last month’s round of accountability tests.
The Common Core process is working, but also the legislative committee process is working, although not in the direction that opponents of the new standards want it to go.