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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — After a year of high-profile feuding over Common Core, House lawmakers started advancing a compromise Wednesday on Louisiana's education standards that could offer more opportunities for public oversight but that faces reticence from Gov. Bobby Jindal.
The proposal, the first piece of which won support from the House Education Committee without objection, calls for a wholesale review of English and math standards used in public schools.
Development and review of the standards would remain with the state education board, which has already started a review process.
But under the bill by Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, the House and Senate education committees and the governor would have the ability to reject the standards — and the process would involve public hearings in each of Louisiana's six congressional districts.
"We get real Louisiana standards written by real Louisianians in a real Louisiana democratic process," said Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, an anti-Common Core leader in the Legislature. "What else could you ask for? Fantastic."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education would have to finish its review and adopt any changes to the standards by March 2016. Then, the standards would have to go through Louisiana's Administrative Procedures Act, which requires public notice, a comment period and legislative oversight.
House Education Committee Chairman Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, a supporter of Common Core, called the approach a "sensible pathway forward" that ensures Louisiana will maintain high standards.
The Common Core standards are benchmarks of what students should learn at each grade level in English and math. They've 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.
The compromise proposal doesn't dictate that Common Core must be replaced and, in fact, the standards review process could come up with only modest adjustments that largely keep the multistate standards intact.
The deal won support from Superintendent of Education John White, a Common Core supporter, and lawmakers on both sides of the standards debate. But while Jindal, a Common Core opponent, praised the work, his administration has concerns with the agreement reached.
"We support the process moving forward, but we're not endorsing the bill," said Jindal chief of staff Kyle Plotkin.
The compromise offered would be a mixed bag for Jindal, who has made opposition to Common Core a key talking point as he readies for a likely 2016 presidential campaign and who wants to scrap the multistate standards entirely.
Under the deal unveiled Wednesday, the Republican governor wouldn't be able to say he got rid of Common Core in Louisiana because the standards review wouldn't be complete before he leaves office. A decision on the standards would fall to Jindal's successor, who will take over in January.
Plotkin said the administration had concerns that if the standards were rejected by lawmakers or the governor, the state simply would keep using Common Core. He also raised worries the commission set up by the pro-Common Core education board would be packed with supporters of the existing standards.
Parents and teachers on both sides of the issue expressed skepticism.
Those who support Common Core don't want the standards review to heavily rewrite the English and math benchmarks, while those who oppose Common Core are afraid the standards review would just be a rebranding of Common Core.
"Is everybody just perfectly happy? No. But I've learned in this process that if everybody is sort of unhappy a little then something worked," said Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, a Common Core critic.
House Bill 373 can be found at www.legis.la.gov
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