People often ask, what do I think is the most important issue facing Louisiana? Or, if I could accomplish just one thing as Governor what would it be? These are tough questions. We have taken on a lot of big challenges the past six years, and passed a number of major reforms. I am proud to say that Louisiana today has more people working, higher incomes, and more people living here than ever before.
But, there is one issue we have tackled that stands out to me above all others – education reform – specifically, our efforts to put a great teacher in every classroom and to fight for equal opportunity in education for Louisiana children. We have made great strides on this front, but there is still much room for improvement. Our kids only grow up once, and we only have one shot at providing a child with access to a great teacher and a quality education.
That is why we have expanded the school choice program statewide. And it is why we have passed legislation to give flexibility to local school districts to cut through government red tape in order to improve student performance. We believe parents and teachers are our best educators, not government bureaucrats. To use a football analogy, we think the best strategy on education reform is to hand the ball off to parents and teachers and empower them to improve education quality for our children.
This strategy is working, thanks in large part to the hard work of our students, parents and teachers. Louisiana's high school graduation rate has hit another record high, the number of failing schools in the state has been cut in half, and more students are scoring well enough on the ACT to be able to apply for college. We are moving Louisiana forward by enabling teachers and parents to make the best decisions about how to educate our children.
So, when parents and teachers began to speak up in opposition to the one-size-fits-all nature of the Common Core standards and the tests that came with it, we listened. Much of the education community is increasingly concerned that the Common Core mandates will mean local school districts have less control over curriculum. Many have described a rushed process where the education bureaucrats and the folks in Washington D.C. did an end run around parents and educators to implement these standards without proper input.
There's no question we need to have high, rigorous standards to help our children compete with the rest of the world, but we should do it the right way and not rush it. I am opposed to Common Core, but my opposition aside, at the very least it is only right to allow the Louisiana Legislature and Louisiana parents and teachers the chance to take a second look at these tests and standards to ensure they make sense for our state.
The more teachers, parents, and students learn about these tests and these standards the less they like about them. What started out as a well-intentioned attempt to promote educational quality has morphed into a scheme by Washington to take over education policy from states and local governments. In recent months, many other states—from South Carolina to Oklahoma—have also acted to slow down or stop the implementation of these standards. The actions of other states are proof that we are not alone in our concerns. We wanted high standards developed by Louisianians that could strengthen our education system. What we got was encroaching involvement from the federal government.
The simple fact is that proponents of Common Core weren't upfront about the level of federal government control involved once states accepted the one-size-fits all standards. We shouldn't let a national consortium of federal bureaucrats dictate how Louisiana educates its children. We have fought too hard to sit idly by and allow educational choice and local control of curriculum to be taken away from parents and educators. Our children's future is too important to get this wrong.
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