Politics blog: David Vitter plans more closed-door ‘leadership forums’ _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- U.S. Sen. David Vitter

Stepping up his criticism of Common Core, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a contender for governor, said Friday the state should form a panel of teachers, parents and others to draft new classroom standards.

“The idea that you can only have strong, challenging standards if you surrender control to national elites is just crazy,” Vitter said in a prepared statement. “We can have real rigor and Louisiana control and we will.”

The proposal was one of several on public schools that the Republican released in advance of a gubernatorial debate set for Tuesday in Shreveport.

The gathering, which will focus on public schools, will be hosted by the Louisiana School Boards Association, which is holding its annual meeting.

Vitter; Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, of Baton Rouge; Scott Angelle, another Republican and a member of the Public Service Commission; and Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite, are set to appear at the two-hour gathering.

All four hope to succeed Gov. Bobby Jindal, who cannot seek a third consecutive term.

Vitter is a former Common Core backer who did a turnaround in December and said he opposes the new standards in reading, writing and math.

His announcement on Friday said getting the state out of Common Core and the tests that go with it — called PARCC — “as soon as possible” is part of his priority list.

About 300,000 students in grades three through eight are set to take the exams March 16-20.

Vitter said new standards can be developed by parents, teachers and local school system leaders through state and local working groups, and can be equally or more rigorous than Common Core.

“One of the reasons Common Core implementation has been such a debacle is that parents, teachers and other local leaders were largely shut out,” the statement says.

“Everything we do has to be parent — and teacher — centered. They’re the ones actually educating our kids.”

Common Core backers say that trying to hammer out new standards would spark chaos in public school classrooms after four years of preparation for the revamped guidelines.

The standards were written by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

They have been endorsed twice by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, in 2010 and 2014.

In a separate announcement, Edwards said he would promote a “Louisiana reviewed curriculum with reasonable and accurate measurements of student, educator and school success upon which parents can rely.”

The Democrat has said previously that, aside from some concerns about implementation, he backs the academic goals embodied in Common Core.

Vitter did not return calls for comment.

Vitter said another public schools priority would be to provide teacher pay raises “once the budget is stabilized to ensure that we are competitive with other Southern states.”

Louisiana faces a $1.6 billion shortfall for the financial year that begins July 1.

Vitter also said he backs “maximum parental choice” in education, including charter schools, vouchers and home schooling.

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