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Louisiana Election Results Cloud Future of Common Core, Vouchers, Charters

By Daarel Burnette II — November 23, 2015 2 min read
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Saturday’s Louisiana elections for governor and state school board could have broad implications for the state’s use of the Common Core State Standards and school choice.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards, a conservative Democrat who has supported the abolishment of the common core and a limit on vouchers and charter schools, won in a race for governor. He beat U.S. Sen. David Vitter, a Republican who also opposed the common core but was largely supportive of vouchers and charter schools.

Edwards received a groundswell of support from the state’s teacher’s unions for his opposition to vouchers and charter schools. He will speak at their national conference Monday.

“Educators have suffered through a botched roll-out of common core standards, unfair and inaccurate labeling of teachers and schools, poorly conceived testing regimens, the dilution of tenure and other due-process rights, and the stagnation of education funding,” said Louisiana Federation of Teachers President Steve Monaghan in a statement posted on the group’s website. “It is truly time for a change of direction.”

But the gubernatorial race wasn’t the only important election for K-12 in the Pelican State. In the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) race, Kathy Edmonston, a critic of the common core, beat Jason Engen to be the board’s president. Tony Davis, the president of the Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce and a supporter of common core, beat Mary Harris, a common-core critic.

After a four-year battle over the state’s use of the common-core standards filled with lawsuits and political jestering, Louisiana is currently undergoing a review process of its standards that will conclude in February. As governor, Edwards will be able to either approve or reject the standards, though rejecting them will mean the state will have to stick with the standards until the state can come up with new ones.

The majority of the board now supports the state’s use of the common core, but the governor will get to appoint three board members.

John White, the state superintendent has the support of the majority of the state school board, but Edwards has said he wants to get rid of him.

“It’s critical that we continue making progress for the students in our state and I’m hopeful that as a Democrat, John Bel wants to do what’s right for our students,” said Eva Kemp, Louisiana’s Democrats For Education Reform (DFER) state director, in a statement. “While we may not have agreed on each issue in the past, DFER is excited to continue working with John Bel, as we build on the successes over the last several years and continue making sure that Louisiana schools work for Louisiana students.

For a very comprehensive timeline by my colleague Andrew Ujifusa of the common-core controversy in Louisiana, go here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.