Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter offered definitive support Friday for the Common Core education standards, a position that puts him at odds with Gov. Bobby Jindal but that could bolster business community backing as the senator fundraises for the 2015 governor's race.
"I support the strong standards Louisiana now has in place and think Gov. Jindal's attempt to start from scratch right before the new school year is very disruptive," the senator said in a statement to The Associated Press.
Common Core standards are grade-by-grade benchmarks of what students should learn in English and math, adopted by more than 40 states.
Vitter's statement follows his description of the standards as "very strong, significant, positive standards" in an interview taped for C-SPAN's "Newsmakers," set to air Sunday.
He said to ensure proper implementation of Common Core, the state must make sure teachers are properly prepared to use the standards and must retain local control of curriculum.
"I would take an aggressive, hands-on approach (to) get curriculum and implementation right. I'd ensure the state and locals maintain complete control over curriculum, lesson plans and reading lists and make good decisions on those. And I'd demand effective planning and preparation with parents, school boards and teachers," Vitter said in his statement to AP.
The comments were the first time Vitter took a position on the standards.
His backing of Common Core also comes as Jindal is taking steps to undermine the standards and remove them from Louisiana classrooms, in a dispute with education leaders that's headed to court.
Jindal, a one-time Common Core supporter, now opposes the standards as a federal intrusion into local education. He's suspended state testing contracts that were to be used to buy testing material aligned with Common Core, to disrupt use of the standards.
The governor's actions have erupted into a public feud with Louisiana's education leaders. Education Superintendent John White and officers of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or BESE, still support Common Core and accuse Jindal of overreaching his authority.
Lawmakers also have refused to strip Common Core from public school classrooms, and the state's powerful business organizations continue to push the multi-state standards as a way to better prepare students for college and careers after high school.
Two lawsuits have been filed in the dispute, with BESE joining one that accuses Jindal of violating the state constitution in his actions against the standards.
Vitter's stance is different from his two competitors in the governor's race, Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards.
Dardenne, in a letter to The Advocate newspaper this week, came out against Common Core, saying Louisiana should establish its own education standards and testing, though he took issue with Jindal's tactics.
Edwards recently said he doesn't necessarily oppose Common Core, but wants a Louisiana-based group of educators and parents to review the individual standards and determine whether to keep, reject or modify them.