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Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- The Louisiana House and Senate Education committees heard testimony Tuesday on revisions to the long-debated Common Core academic standards. Senate Education Committee Chair Dan "Blade" Morrish, R-Jennings, and House Education Committee Chair Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, sit on the raised back row dais. Also considering testimony, front to back, are Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, Rep. Reid Falconer, R-Mandeville, and Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge.

In her weekly column, Associated Press reporter Melinda Deslatte really captured the circular nature of the Legislature's never-ending debate over how to control the growing cost of the immensely popular TOPS college scholarships. Lawmakers have done little, she explained, because they haven't reckoned with the fundamental question of what the program's main priority should be.

Should it focus on need or merit? Should it aim to keep the best students in state, or prioritize helping those who might otherwise not get a chance at a college education? In times of economic duress, should the state cut awards across the board, as it did last year when lawmakers failed to fully fund the program for the first time, or should it allocate the money more strategically?

That the Legislature has never come up with firm answers is evident in a long trail of laws that were proposed but never passed, even as the price of the program grew.

Now lawmakers are trying a different approach. Earlier this year the Legislature commissioned a ten-member study group, which met last week for the first time under the leadership of Senate Education Committee Chairman Blade Morrish, a Jennings Republican.

Deslatte ended her piece by questioning whether, even with the task force's ultimate recommendations in hand, lawmakers will manage to agree on any particular direction. At the meeting, though, Morrish raised doubts over whether the study group will even be able to present a united front.

“There could be multiple pieces of legislation that come out of here that are in direct conflict to one another,” said Morrish, according to WAFB.

In other words, never mind the new setting. This is the same old conversation.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.