BESE Board president says state is in a 'fiasco'

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A recent national poll shows Louisiana schools are the fourth worst in the United States.  The president of the state's top school board says the problem is low expectations.  Chas Roemer says that is one reason the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the standards known as Common Core to bring in higher standards.

But with recent confusion on the issue, Roemer says the state is suffering.

"The fiasco we're going through right now is a fiasco," Roemer said Monday at Press Club.  "Caused by one person."

That one person, Roemer believes, is Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Earlier this year, Jindal switched his position on the new education standards and opposed Common Core and the test that came with it.  That test, known as PARCC, allows states to compare how its students are learning compared to those in other states.

"And I only know one way to compete. That's called compare apples to apples," Roemer said.

In June, Jindal blocked the state from using PARCC.

Roemer said earlier this year, the governor tried to get the legislature and BESE to make certain changes to the new standards, but no one did.  He says last year, 45,000 students took a test based on Common Core standards and performed at the same level they did on the LEAP test.

Roemer believes Jindal's actions are a political move, possibly a setup for a future national campaign.

"We need leadership that spends less time on politics and more time on kids," he said.  "We need leadership that's not concerned about their own future, but the future of our state."

The fight between Jindal and BESE has been over who can decide what is on the standardized test students will take.  Jindal has said he wants a Louisiana based test.  BESE wants to use a test that other states are using, so they can compare Louisiana students to those elsewhere.

Steve Monaghan, the president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, says they support having higher standards.  Monaghan says he wonders what the outcome will be if politics win.

"Are we measuring how we failed as a political body?  Have we failed to do what we were supposed to do and now what we're really seeing children do is what we caused to happen," said Monaghan.

While everyone is pointing fingers now, Monaghan fears that's a question in which no one will take responsibility.

Governor Jindal issued a response to Roemer's comments.  It reads, "Chas and John White should follow the law and issue an RFP.   There's no excuse for the delay tactics.   The law is the law and they both need to follow the law."

Roemer says both parties will be in court later this month.  At the July BESE meeting, he says, the board gave itself 30 days in which to let teachers know how the testing will be done.

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