Supporters of Common Core in Louisiana, where the fight over the standards has been particularly fierce, won a substantial victory over the weekend by retaining control of the state’s school board.
Eight spots on Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) were up for election over the weekend. Six of them were won, often by big margins, by candidates who support Common Core, while the other two are headed to runoffs. Not only that, but the two BESE members who were most vocally critical of Common Core were both knocked from office.
With 11 total members of BESE (three are appointed by the governor), the results likely ensure a pro-Common Core majority will stay in place for the next four years, even though the two gubernatorial candidates headed to a runoff next month both oppose it.
The clash over Common Core and other education reform efforts is extremely intense in the Bayou State. Besides Common Core, reformers have also significantly expanded charter schools, the use of school vouchers, and the use of standardized tests to evaluate teachers. In the last four years, these efforts have been led by state schools superintendent John White, who was handpicked by current Gov. Bobby Jindal for the role.
But since that appointment, Jindal has shifted from supporting Common Core to being a strong opponent of it. That, in turn, has made him and White bitter enemies. Jindal attempted to repeal Common Core through a pair of executive orders, but White, backed by a majority of BESE, defied him, and so the standards remain in place to this day. (RELATED: Bobby Jindal’s Common Core Crusade, Principle Or Opportunism?)
Saturday’s election results are largely a referendum on White, and Saturday’s results are a vindication, meaning he will likely be able to remain superintendent since it takes an 8-vote BESE supermajority to force a superintendent from office.
Despite their relatively low profile, the BESE races attracted more than $3.5 million from pro-Common Core and pro-charter school groups that wanted to see Louisiana stay the course. Of that money, more than $800,000 came from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, and $400,000 came from Walmart heirs Alice and Jim Walton.
Earlier this year, Louisiana’s legislature passed a compromise measure to review Common Core and recommend possible changes to it. Since those changes will have to be approved by BESE, Saturday’s results mean the final product will likely be extremely similar to Common Core rather than a big departure. (RELATED: Compromise Could End Common Core In Louisiana)
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