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When Senator David Vitter Contacts Me, He Thinks of Himself

December 1, 2014

On December 1, 2014, U.S. Senator David Vitter (R-La.) sent a mass email stating his intention to remove Louisiana from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the CCSS related, Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments.

david vitter 2

He wrote that he planned to do so as “our next Governor.”

I received his mass email, the text of which is as follows:

No To Common Core, Yes To Rigorous Louisiana Standards, Testing, And Accountability
David Vitter
December 1, 2014

Four months ago, I said that I supported strong standards like the Common Core standards Louisiana has adopted.  But I said that we had to put a lot more effort into ensuring local control over curriculum and course material, making the right choices regarding those things, and truly partnering with parents and teachers in implementation.

After listening to literally thousands of parents, teachers, and others since then, I don’t believe that we can achieve that Louisiana control, buy-in, and success I’m committed to if we stay in Common Core.

Instead, I think we should get out of Common Core/PARCC and establish an equally or more rigorous Louisiana system of standards and testing.

I’ve focused on three things in the last several months that have led me to this conclusion:

First, Common Core is controlled by national groups and interests outside Louisiana.  And many Louisianians legitimately fear that it will become a federal government takeover of education under President Obama and his far-left allies.

I’ve fought tooth and nail for local control of education and against the enormous growth of federal power under Obama.  That includes prohibiting the federal government from mandating, coercing, or bribing states to adopt Common Core or its equivalent.

Second, Common Core is causing deep frustration and worse in many classrooms and homes, and not because of greater rigor.  It’s preventing lots of involved parents and teachers–our most important education leaders–from being effective and helping kids learn.

Third, an entrenched few in public education are trying very hard to manipulate the Common Core controversy to greatly weaken or reverse accountability measures.

That would be disastrous, turning back the clock to the failed status quo where learning in the classroom wasn’t truly measured and social promotions were common.

To avert all of this, we need very rigorous standards, the essential buy-in of parents and teachers, and complete Louisiana control.  Here’s how we can have all three:

–Exit the Common Core PARRC testing consortium immediately and adopt a rigorous interim test that is not aligned with Common Core.

–Have the Governor, Legislature, and BESE convene a blue-ribbon panel of Louisiana parents, teachers, experts from higher education, and business leaders to develop an updated system of rigorous Louisiana standards and testing outside of Common Core/PARCC.

–Require that this new system be developed, debated, and adopted in a fully inclusive, transparent, and democratic way.

–Implement it in a careful, methodical manner, unlike the roll-out of Common Core.

I’ll lead us forward on this path as our next Governor.  In doing so, I’ll be fully engaged and hands-on to ensure that our new framework meets three criteria: that it is fully Louisiana-controlled, not merely Common Core by another name; that it truly prepares our children to be successful in higher education and the workplace; and that it is as or more rigorous than Common Core.

I’ll also attack other key education challenges that standards alone won’t fix.  We must empower great school-based leaders, demand strict discipline in all our classrooms, and dramatically improve reading proficiency in the early grades (now a dismal 23% in Louisiana).

Thank you very much for all of your ideas and input.  I’ll continue to depend on them.

In addition to the above spiel, I also received the following message:

Mercedes–

Thanks for your sound advice.  I think this is a strong plan moving forward to get completely out of Common Core but demand real rigor and accountability.  I really want your help to get this done and get it done right.
–David
  Cell XXX-XXX-XXXX

Now, I realize that it is not uncommon for politicians to include such a message to make a mass mailing appear personal; however, the truth is that my writing on CCSS and PARCC might have reached Vitter.

But I have a problem with Vitter, and it goes back to 2012 and the Louisiana legislature’s blindsiding teachers with Act 1, known as the “Teacher Tenure Law.” Act 1 involves evaluating teachers based on student test scores– and of those test scores as counting for 50 percent of a teacher’s annual evaluation– unless the test scores are low enough to rate a teacher as “ineffective.” In that case, the “ineffective” test scores override all and count for 100 percent of the evaluation.

Many legislators participated in forcing this unprecedented level of test-driven “reform” onto Louisiana’s classrooms.  However, Vitter was particularly outspoken on the issue.

I reminded Vitter of as much in my email response to him, also dated December 1, 2014:

Hello. Mr. Vitter. Remember this?

http://www.katc.com/news/senator-david-vitter-outraged-at-teachers-lobbying-in-baton-rouge/

In a email release, U.S. Senator David Vitter blasts teachers for taking off school to attend committee hearings in Baton Rouge. Here is the exact verbatim from the release:

“If you want to know what’s wrong with Louisiana public education, just look at what’s going on in many Louisiana public schools today. Or rather, what’s NOT going on–namely, learning.

In East Baton Rouge, Vermillion, St. Martin, and other systems, the children are being told to stay home–no school, no learning. Why? So that their teachers can be granted a “professional development day” to lobby the legislature AGAINST education reform.

A letter to all Vermillion parish teachers made their marching orders crystal clear: “We want them [the legislators] to know that we do not agree with the [education reform] plan . . .”

As a Louisiana citizen and parent, I’m really outraged. I guess the folks behind this are making their priorities clear–forget the kids; we just care about our tenure protection and benefits.

This is exactly what’s wrong with the system. These folks steal a day of learning from the kids to lobby on the taxpayers’ dime. And what happens? They’re rewarded with a ‘professional development day’ to do it.

As taxpayers and parents, we need to push back and put the focus back on educating Louisiana’s future generations.”

I was one of those teachers who– because of when the legislature decided to schedule hearings on my profession– had to take a professional day (personal day– my error corrected in this post) in order to advocate for my own livelihood.

In requesting my help with Common Core, I believe you are trying to garner support for a 2016 run for governor– nothing more.

I am tired of having my livelihood tied to tests, period, and I especially do not appreciate your “outrage” at teachers’ being given opportunity to take professional leave to participate in the democratic process.

I do not directly control my students’ test scores. Factors outside of the classroom hold much more sway, not the least of which are household income and the capricious setting of cut scores for what is determined “good” on those tests.

Want to “get this done right”? Publicly apologize to teachers for your 2012 “outrage,” and actively work to disconnect teacher evaluation from standardized tests of our students.

–Mercedes Schneider

Career teacher

So, what do you suppose happened in response to my email?

An apology?

A response at all?

Kind of.

Apparently, what Mr. Vitter (or his staff) decided to do was contact kact.com and have the web page killed.

That’s right: A story that has been available since March 14, 2012– and that was available on the morning that I included the entire text of the story as part of my December 1, 2014, email response– mysteriously died today.

All I did was try to hold Vitter (here it comes, teachers) accountable for his words against teachers in 2012.

But information on the web is hard to shake. Here is the katc.com story as such is stored as part of Google cache— a “digital footprint.” And here is a better copy from the internet archive search engine, the Way Back Machine.

And, of course, there are the memories of the teachers stiffed by the 2012 legislature and the resulting test-driven-evaluation reality.

Do I want CCSS gone? Absolutely.

I’m just not willing to tie my name to Vitter’s hypocrisy.

 

david vitter

_______________________________________________

Schneider is also author of the ed reform whistleblower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education

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11 Comments
  1. Brett Geymann permalink

    FYI. We all got the “thanks for the sound advice” in our email. Even those of us who have not spoken to him.

    Brett

  2. Christine Lyles permalink

    Way to go — call him on the carpet!

  3. Dear Mercedes,
    You are a marvel. What I wrote a year or so ago in praise of Diane applies equally to you: see http://dianeravitch.net/2013/09/29/jonathan-lovellthink-of-this-when-critics-rage/
    Fondly,
    Jonathan

  4. The worst chills you’ll get: Vitter in this video blows off a woman speaking out in favor of an amendment to hold contractors accountable to US law when their employees rape a US citizen overseas. He is not very likable in this…

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/02/vitter-confronted-by-rape_n_342051.html

  5. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Wow. Stand strong. This makes me sick. I am from Washington State where by some miracle at the close of the 2014 legislative session, we ended up without a law that ties test scores to teacher evaluations. Washington schools, students and teachers are currently being punished by Arne Duncan who didn’t get his way. I fear that the loss of control in how federal funds can be spent to serve our state’s children, especially those in Title I schools, will make it harder to prevail this coming legislative session. Arne’s threats have become a reality, and we know the blame will be placed on teachers and their union. The media spin on it last year was absolutely awful. It will be even worse now,

  6. Hannah permalink

    (stands & applauds)

  7. Laura chapman permalink

    Great job .

  8. Mary K. Bellisario permalink

    Good job, Mercedes. I got that same “Dear ____, thank you for your sound advice.” Since I had never sent Mr. Vitter anything, let alone “advice,” it makes his campaign email push seem insincere, bordering on outright fraudulent. Does he think we’re stupid?

    • Mary K, he’s fishing– looking for those who will buy in. The rest of us are of no use.🙂

  9. The usual corrupt suspects like Vitter always put the evil CCSS on Obama instead of the NGA and the plutocrats. Obama follows orders and his soldier Duncan continues to equivocate. Anything to promote those who can best advance their careers: Wall Street.

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