A surprise bid Monday by anti-Common Core forces in the Louisiana House to steer one of their bills away from a potentially hostile committee in favor of debate in the full House failed.
The vote was 37 in favor and 61 opposed.
State Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles and one of the Legislature’s top critics of the standards, launched the rare maneuver because he said he could not get a fair hearing for his measure in the House Education Committee.
Geymann asked that his proposal — House Bill 373 — be sent directly to the House instead and be debated later as a “committee of the whole” rather than the education committee getting the first say, which is traditional.
He said Common Core critics are convinced they cannot get an unbiased review in the schools panel.
“It is not really what we think,” Geymann told the House. “It is the perception of the parents. They have lost faith in the process.”
State Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, a member of the House Education Committee, said he found the effort offensive.
Broadwater said the committee is well known for holding debates of 18 or 20 hours without a recess or adjournment. “You may not agree, but we will treat you with respect,” Broadwater said.
House Education Committee Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, who backs Common Core, also objected to Geymann’s bid.
Carter noted that, in the past, he has been criticized for being “too fair” by allowing lengthy testimony on both sides of Common Core and other debates.
The vote Monday offered an early snapshot of sentiment on the highly charged standards, with repeal efforts expected to be one of the key topics.
“The net effect of this is we still have a lot of work to do on the House floor,” Geymann said after the vote.
However, some lawmakers opposed the effort because they saw it as undermining legislative tradition that relies on committees to review bills. “Let there be a thorough vetting of the process,” said House Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans.
A variety of anti-Common Core bills by Geymann and others died in the House Education Committee last year.
The bill in dispute would require that, starting with the 2017-18 school year, the standards would require the approval of the Legislature.
Geymann said his bid was triggered in part by last week’s distribution of stuffed unicorns by the pro-Common Core group Alliance for Better Classrooms political action committee, or ABC PAC.
The pink animals, which were distributed to state lawmakers, included a tag that said, “Unicorns are not real. And neither are most of the things you’ve heard about Common Core.”
“This is the most distasteful thing I have seen in my entire career as a public servant,” Geymann said in a news release that described his effort.
Rep. Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, echoed the comment and backed the motion to keep the bill out of the House Education Committee.
“The well has been poisoned on this issue,” Hensgens said.
State Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge and a member of the committee, disputed arguments that the bill would not get a fair hearing.
“We have had committee meetings until 2 o’clock in the morning,” Smith said. “Everybody gets heard in education.”
Smith also downplayed the offensiveness of the stuffed unicorns. She noted that, years ago, opponents of one of her bills passed out condoms around the State Capitol.
Geymann said one reason for his push was the inclusion of Carter’s name on a list of supporters by the group that distributed the stuffed unicorns.
He said Carter’s name has since been removed, and it was not on ABC’s website on Monday.