Vitter Reverses Course, Now Opposes Common Core

BATON ROUGE (AP) — U.S. Sen. David Vitter has changed his mind on Common Core, announcing Monday that he now opposes the multistate education standards that only four months ago he said he strongly supported.

         "After listening to literally thousands of parents, teachers, and others since then, I don't believe that we can achieve that Louisiana control, buy-in and success I'm committed to if we stay in Common Core," Vitter said in an email.

         The Republican, running for governor next year, said Louisiana should establish its own system of standards and testing and end its use of Common Core.

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         The position puts him at odds with business leaders who donate to political campaigns, but moves him back in the good graces of conservative groups who vehemently oppose Common Core and who could form the base of his support for a gubernatorial bid.

         Vitter is the only of the four announced candidates for governor to come out directly against Common Core.

         Term-limited Gov. Bobby Jindal has become a strong critic of the standards after previously supporting them, and is trying to get them removed from Louisiana's public school classrooms through court action. He describes the standards as a federal intrusion into local education.

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         Common Core standards are grade-by-grade benchmarks of what students should learn in English and math, adopted by more than 40 states.

         Louisiana's state education leaders and lawmakers have refused to strip Common Core from public schools. The state's powerful business organizations continue to push the multi-state standards as a way to better prepare students for college and careers.

         Amy Deslattes, an instructional coach at Lafayette High School and Common Core supporter, called Vitter's announcement "disheartening." She said while the transition to the new standards has been difficult, Common Core will help Louisiana students compete nationally.

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         "It's time we get the politics out of the classroom. Let us teach our kids," Deslattes said on a conference call with other teachers who support Common Core.

         In August, Vitter said he supported "the strong standards Louisiana now has in place." He called Jindal's attempt to start over before the new school year "very disruptive."

         But he said to ensure proper implementation of Common Core, the state must make sure teachers are prepared to use the standards and must retain local control of curriculum. He said Monday those goals can't be achieved.

         Vitter said he believes Common Core is controlled by national groups and the standards are causing too much frustration for parents and teachers. He also said some people are trying to use the controversy over Common Core to weaken state accountability standards.

         "Many Louisianians legitimately fear that it will become a federal government takeover of education under President Obama and his far-left allies," Vitter said in his email.

         He added that the standards are "preventing lots of involved parents and teachers — our most important education leaders — from being effective and helping kids learn."

         Vitter's proposal would have the state develop its own interim standardized tests for public school students, rather than use the Common Core-aligned test currently planned. Then, he wants a panel of parents, teachers, higher education experts and business leaders to develop state-specific standards that he said should be as rigorous as Common Core.

         Three other candidates are in the governor's race.

         Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne supports Common Core. Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards has said he doesn't necessarily oppose Common Core, but wants a Louisiana-based group of educators and parents to review the individual standards. Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle hasn't taken a position on Common Core.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte

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