BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The bitter feud over the Common Core education standards has grown increasingly personal, with critics of the standards raising conflict-of-interest allegations against state education leaders and seeking new ethics restrictions for them.
Unable so far to force an end to Louisiana's use of Common Core, opponents of the multistate standards are targeting Superintendent of Education John White directly, asking lawmakers to enact tougher ethics limits for White and members of the state education board.
The suggestion is that White has had improper influence from outside groups pushing Common Core and that's why he's such a staunch supporter of the English and math standards adopted by more than 40 states. He denies any improprieties — and the state ethics board cleared him after a complaint was filed.
The toughened ethics proposals, backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, were scheduled for their first hearing Tuesday in the House and Governmental Affairs Committee.
They are the latest salvo in a fight that has grown increasingly nasty since Jindal — once an ardent supporter of Common Core — announced his opposition to the standards a year ago. By switching positions, Jindal broke with White, his hand-picked education superintendent, and education board members who had once been the governor's key allies.
Ethics complaints have been filed against White and members of his education department, and Common Core critics have repeatedly accused the superintendent and his supporters on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, known as BESE, of conflicts of interest and questionable behavior.
"This is a political assault is what this is, period," said BESE Chairman Chas Roemer, a Common Core supporter, blaming the Jindal administration for what he called an attack on White's integrity.
Jindal administration officials deny any orchestrated effort against the superintendent.
But, among other things, the bills pushed by Jindal — sponsored by Reps. Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, and Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge — seek to target affiliations White has with outside education organizations.
They would prohibit BESE members and the state superintendent from membership in nongovernment organizations that requires adoption of certain education standards or policies, unless lawmakers have approved those standards or policies.
And they would add new restrictions on BESE members, the superintendent and their family members having connections to entities that can get contracts or do work with the board or education department.
Jindal didn't name anyone when describing his support for the legislation, calling the bills "common sense." He said he and others have had concerns about "inappropriate influence" in states that have adopted Common Core, without mentioning that he signed onto the standards when White wasn't yet superintendent.
The Republican governor, a likely 2016 presidential candidate, said the bills would make sure Louisiana's education leaders don't have conflicting loyalties because of affiliations with outside education groups that push certain standards or testing.
"It's good to know the people making these decisions for our classrooms are completely focused on Louisiana parents, Louisiana families, Louisiana classrooms," Jindal said.
The Common Core standards have been adopted by more than 40 states as a way to better prepare students for college and careers. Opponents say the standards are developmentally inappropriate and part of federal efforts to nationalize education.
Jindal is asking lawmakers to strip Common Core from Louisiana classrooms, but in prior years, lawmakers have refused to do so. White and the state education board also have rejected attempts to jettison the multistate standards. Proposals to scrap the standards are scheduled to be heard Wednesday in the House Education Committee.
Online: House Bills 246 and 626 can be found at www.legis.la.gov
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Posted on Tue, May 12, 2015
by Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press