On Wednesday, May 13th, the Education Committee of the Louisiana House of Representatives heard Rep. Brett Geymann’s bill HB-373 along with a few other bills considered to be “Anti-Common Core,” including HB-672 offered by Rep. Lance Harris which was first on the agenda.
In the first of what would prove to be a series of unexpected events, Harris opened the committee meeting with a rather entertaining speech about growing up in Louisiana and how his father taught him the importance of doing the right thing. After gaining a number of chuckles from the attending crowd, he involuntarily deferred his bill essentially removing it from further consideration.
Geymann’s bill was third on the agenda. When he was called up to introduce the bill, another strange event took place. Committee Chairman, Rep. Stephen Carter, asked for the Vice Chairman to take his place, and he came down to join Geymann. This is a rare event because for quite some time Geymann and Carter have been at odds over Common Core. Together, they happily announced that the committee had worked diligently for some time to come up with a way to find common ground and wind up with something that most, maybe not all, would be happy with. Rep. Broadwater and Rep. Schroder both spoke as to how their bills would be affected, and then entered Sen. Conrad Appel who explained how his bill, SB-43, would be withdrawn, and the contents of it amended into Geymann’s HB-373. Indeed, these were a strange string of events.
By the time Chairman Carter returned to his seat, it was apparent that the outcome of HB-373 had already been determined, but it was still required that they allow public comment. As commenting commenced, they repeatedly stated that if anyone no longer felt they needed to comment because of the changes to the bill they should just waive their turn. A small handful of people commented in favor of the bill mostly to reiterate the basic reasons that we would support this type of bill and to acknowledge the efforts of the committee.
After those in favor of the bill spoke, the long parade of those against the bill, began. Included in the commenters opposed were a half dozen, or so, teacher leader advisors from around the state who, in essence, are paid supporters of Common Core because they received large stipends from the LDOE to attend workshops and promote and support CCSS in their districts. In addition, their personal quotes appear in advertising propaganda from Stand For Children which is designed to imply that teachers all over Louisiana support Common Core. Also among the opposing commenters was Brenda Nixon, co-Director of the Cain Center for STEM Literacy and a participant in the creation of Eureka Math.
Finally, after multiple reminders that commenters could waive their turns because of changes in the bill, a slew of parents lined up to oppose the bill. One after one, they commented on how the children need the RIGOROUS standards and how they are developing A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING of the material. The passion was apparent in their voices and even on the verge of anger. Several of these commenters were even wearing Stand For Children t-shirts. We are all familiar with Stand For Children. It is the non-profit organization that is financially supported by the Gates Foundation.
Now, the registered lobbyist for Stand for Children, Keith Leger, was apparently the “handler” of these parents and teacher leaders. He, along with Calcasieu Parish’s own member of the Educator Leader Cadre, Judy Vail, were both prepared to speak in opposition of HB-373, but chose not to, presumably because they were savvy enough to recognize that a plan was in action. So why did the “handler” allow those folks to go on as planned? Well, it is confirmed that all of these teachers, including Ms. Vail, were afforded professional development days, presumably paid by Stand For Children. Now, before I go any further, I want to educate the public about public records. The records of public agencies and public employees are just that…public. They can be obtained by a request under the Freedom of Information Act, or pretty much any manner that isn’t illegal. The parents, on the other hand, do not fall under FOIA, so we’ll just assume that they were paid, as well. So, with this information, it is safe to assume that since Stand For Children has invested so much time and money into bringing these folks to Baton Rouge, it was only fair that they get their money’s worth and allow them to speak.
Now, the original purpose of this writing is to provide a narrative of how the passing of this bill went down and to clarify the specifics of the bill which I will get to shortly. For now, I want to share with you a conversation that took place in the hallway after the meeting that lends validity to the last view paragraphs that you just read.
The following conversation is between a person in favor of the bill (F) and four people opposing the bill (O) and all wearing Stand For Children t-shirts.
F: Hey! Nice t shirt. Look at ya’ll all matching and stuff.
F: Awesome to see you guys here. Very cool for y’all to show up and come stand up for what you believe in.
F: So you went to stand for children and told them you wanted to get involved?
O: Uh… nah, they come after us. They come find us.
F: So you really like common core huh?
F: Why? What do you like about it so much?
O: The kids are learning stuff. They doing good in school now.
F: Oh wow… well how old are your kids? They in school?
O: (3 out of the 4) Uh, I ain’t got no kids. (One spoke up and said that she had a three year old, but NONE dealing with school age kids)
F: Oh, wow. Okay. Well man, what did you think about that lady who got up there and said that her kid didn’t know how to do math until she had common core?
O: Yeah, thats crazy!
F: You old enough. You didn’t know common core. Can you do math? You any good at it?
O: (young man) Yeah! I’m good at math.
F: Yeah! I think thats kinda crazy and extreme for that lady to say that. Kinda like she was laying it on thick…
O: Yeah, thats crazy.
So, yeah! Now that we’ve confirmed the level to which Stand For Children will stoop to Stand On Children. I’ll let you chew on that conversation for a bit while I move on to the nuts and bolts of HB-373 and how it came to be.
Over the course of five days, the authors of the anti-CC bills met with representatives from the LDOE, the House, the Senate and the Governors office to see if they could find a way to meet the needs of all involved by exploring their common ground and making changes to the bills. Paraphrasing Rep. Geymann’s words they had to continually come back to the table to negotiate because every scenario they came up with led them back to Common Core and a win for Superintendent, John White, and what they ended up with, he prefers to call an agreement and not a compromise. Agreements were made to use a selected committee to create new standards, follow the Administrative Procedure Act and provide the Governor with the ability to veto the standards as a whole with reverting back to Common Core and starting over if the standards failed to be accepted. Fearing that LDOE would sabotage the effort by causing standards to not be accepted, they had to come up with a way to prevent that from happening. In the 11th hour, it was agreed that a testing contract could only be for one year at a time during the creation of new standards and no long term contract would be allowed until the standards were accepted. In addition, LDOE agreed to hold a minimum of 1 meeting in each Congressional District to facilitate and encourage more public review and input, and the meeting would be subject to open meeting laws.
That is the bill, in a nutshell. The review and development of new standards will begin on July 1, 2015 and will continue through the end of February 2016 with a short public review period and submission to the Governor and acceptance at the Beginning of March and implementation for the 16-17 school year. Should the Governor veto the standards, the process starts over. There is much incentive to get it right. I look forward to the end, but I maintain that all involved must remain alert, active and deligent.