- Associated Press - Monday, April 21, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Senators on the budget-writing committee Monday questioned the costs and implications of a push by some lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal to shelve Louisiana’s use of the Common Core education standards and associated testing.

Superintendent of Education John White told the Senate Finance Committee that moving away from testing plans tied to Common Core would be “at significant financial cost.”

White, a supporter of Common Core, estimated the state’s costs would grow by at least $5 million next year to develop state-specific tests. He said local school systems would pay millions more to buy new curricula and do new teacher training on different standards.

“They’ve made sizable investments. They’d have to go back and redo those investments,” White said.

The House Education Committee defeated measures to move Louisiana away from the Common Core and to jettison use of standardized testing from the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, or PARCC.



But legislative efforts continue, with the support of Jindal, who said he has concerns about a “one-size-fits-all approach” used across multiple states. The governor said if lawmakers don’t scrap the PARCC tests, he’d consider trying to remove the state from the multi-state consortium on his own.

The new standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year. White told senators that if Louisiana chose to end its agreement with PARCC, the state has no other tests to put in place next school year.

Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, said developing a set of replacement tests in time for the next school year seemed impractical, if not impossible.

“I cannot imagine how we would do it,” White said.

White said it would take roughly 18 months to develop and field test questions for new state-specific standardized tests and have them ready to roll out for classrooms.

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Public school teachers and most new state employees would have to wait longer to retire, under a proposal that received the backing of the House in a 91-3 vote Monday.

Current law generally allows that non-hazardous employees in the Louisiana State Employees’ Retirement System, the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana and the Louisiana School Employees’ Retirement System can retire at age 60 with 5 years of service.

The bill (House Bill 38) by Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, would require non-hazardous employees hired on or after July 1 to wait until they are 62 years old before they are eligible for retirement.

Pearson’s proposal moves next to the Senate for debate.

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In other legislative action:

-Senators agreed to lengthen the amount of time a Louisiana driver’s license is valid, to six years. The Senate voted unanimously Monday for Sen. Dan Claitor’s proposal (Senate Bill 582) to add two years to the amount of time drivers can use their license before they need to renew them. The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

-The House agreed to put in state law a policy already adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that says local school districts can develop and choose their own curriculum and instructional materials to teach students. The bill by Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington, was backed in a 92-0 vote Monday. It moves to the Senate for consideration.

-Judges would have the discretion to sentence someone to up to 99 years in prison for distributing heroin, under a bill approved 34-2 by the Senate. The bill (Senate Bill 87) by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, would change the maximum sentence for heroin distribution or possession with the intent to distribute heroin from the current 50 years in state law. The proposal heads next to the House for debate.

-The Senate voted 34-2 to give up legislative oversight of the salary for Louisiana’s higher education commissioner. A proposal (Senate Bill 108) by Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, would repeal the law requiring approval of the commissioner’s pay by the Legislature’s joint budget committee. The bill moves to the House for debate.

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Online:

Louisiana Legislature: www.legis.la.gov

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