State, Federal Education Philosophies Mismatch

Sep 27, 2013

Opposing opinions surfaced from state education leaders this week on whether the state should move forward on implementing national education standards called Common Core.  The ongoing struggle to fund higher education continued at a meeting of higher education officials Wednesday.

 Ashley Westerman : First off, Kelly, let’s talk about the state’s struggle with Common Core standards. What are they? Kelly Connelly: Common Core is a set of benchmarks for students about what they should know as they progress through K through 12. It’s written by a branch of the national governor’s association, and incentivized by grants of the Obama administration’s education “race to the top” initiative – but isn’t mandated. It’s lauded because the standards advocate studying material in greater depth, and are supposed to better develop critical thinking skills. Westerman: Why do opponents dislike these standards? Connelly: Earlier this week, Rep. Cameron Henry told Gov. Jindal through a letter that he would push legislation to withdraw the state from common core, which is supposed to be implemented in full in the 14-15 school year. He asked the governor to take action himself before the session starts in March.Henry feels as though Louisiana lawmakers and parents didn’t have enough input on the standards, which is contradictory to the “parental choice” philosophy that’s been so popular. Westerman: So what does Governor Jindal think of that? Connelly: Even after asking his press team that question, it’s still a little unclear. His press secretary said via email that the governor shares Henry’s concerns, and that the governor strives for the best possible education for Louisiana students and opposes a nationalized curriculum. Proponents of Common Core argue that it isn’t technically a curriculum, because it’s a minimum of what students should achieve, not an outline of what teachers are teaching on a day-to-day basis. The statement that the governor made could technically go either way. 

Local proponents of Common Core include the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, a powerful lobby, the Council for a Better Louisiana, a think tank, and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

Sen. Conrad Appel and Rep. Steve Carter, the chair of the education committees in the Senate and House, have voiced opinions that typically don't differ from the governors, but they’ve come out and said that they absolutely support Common Core. We’re seeing a little Republican intra-party split here. But one thing the party is united on is parent choice – which the feds are challenging. There’s an ongoing suit, brought by the Dept. of Justice, challenging the governor’s scholarship, or voucher program, which pays for low income kids in failing public schools to go to private schools, saying that it violates federal desegregation orders. Earlier this week, the DOJ made a big deal about getting some documents from the state, but Jindal said that that was just a publicity stunt. Vouchers have been challenged in the state over again and over again, but this is the first time they’re being recognized by the feds, and for something that Louisianians haven’t challenged themselves. Westerman: At a meeting of higher education officials on Wednesday we saw the continuation of an ongoing struggle to fund higher education. What’s the problem? This meeting this week was almost kind of a non-story, because it's the same story that's been going on for five years. Higher education officials feel that higher education isn't being funded quite as much as they would like. Louisiana is the only state that gives the power to adjust tuition to the legislature, not the state university. The Board of Regents recognized at its meeting that asking for tuition autonomy is a political nonstarter because some lawmakers consider raising tuition to be raising a use tax, for using state universities. But nonetheless [the Board of Regents] batted around the idea. Westerman: Thank you Kelly. That was WRKF government and politics reporter Kelly Connelly and she’ll start joining us each Friday during Morning Edition to talk about the week’s news.