Chamber taken to task over Common Core

by Patrick Flanagan

"For those of us who've followed the changes at the chamber with some discomfort, today is the day our worst fears are realized."

The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce has released its agenda for this year's legislative session, and its defense of the Common Core Standards, among other issues, has one local public education group up in arms.

"Our new chamber is a political organization and one that has devoted itself to a single faction in the ongoing political fragmentation in our country," writes John St. Julien of Power of Public Education-Lafayette.

The chamber's new incarnation, argues St. Julien, is not like the chamber of old, when the local business community, freed from politics, came together to help make practical decisions in the "best interest" of the community.

That, according to St. Julien, has all changed in recent years, as chambers, here and across the country, have become politicized, putting money into political action committees and into the pockets of lobbyists in an attempt to shape policy.

St. Julien continues:

This chamber, sadly, pushes elements of its faction of the national political agenda on our local community. It doesn't support education at any level. It supports workforce development' rather than education in universities. On the local level it pushes changes to governance that have the effect of minimizing the role of the citizen-voter in favor of experts.'

It will turn its lobbyists out to support an untested grading system for schools and teachers that, frankly, has no scientific basis - but which has the effect of promoting distrust of an objectively successful school system. The chamber declares its support of Common Core Standards - which the community is already rebelling against and whose implementation is so botched as to give even Bobby Jindal grounds for retreat.

The chamber has announced a Q&A-style press conference for Monday at 3 p.m. to discuss its support of Common Core, a policy it describes as "vital to Acadiana's short-term and long-term economic health."

PPEL is by no means alone in its protest of Common Core. But here's the thing, while Common Core may be in need of some major tweaks, and perhaps isn't the answer at all, there's one aspect its detractors appear to repeatedly overlook: Louisiana's tradition for being ranked among the worst in terms of student achievement.