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Anti-Common Core lawmakers try to build grassroots momentum for getting rid of the standards

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BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — While students and teachers settle into using the Common Core, a group of lawmakers is trying to build grassroots support for stripping the multistate education standards from Louisiana's public school classrooms.

The lawmakers are holding town hall meetings around the state, seeking to turn opposition into momentum for a planned push in next year's legislative session to undo Louisiana's use of Common Core.

Earlier this year, the Legislature refused to strip the standards from the schools. Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, said he hopes new pressure from parents and teachers can persuade his colleagues to change their minds.

"Most of these folks are your typical parents who go to work every day and aren't involved in politics. We're telling them they have to step outside their comfort zone, call your legislator, your (education board) member," Geymann said Wednesday.

Gov. Bobby Jindal sides with the Common Core opponents. He's vowed an intensified push to jettison the standards, which are grade-by-grade benchmarks of what students should learn in English and math.

But Jindal is a lame duck, with only one year left in his term. Lawmakers returning to a regular session in April 2015 will be in the midst of their own re-election campaigns and jockeying for favor with candidates running to be Louisiana's next governor.

Meanwhile, Education Superintendent John White, a majority of Louisiana's education board members, business groups and key legislative leaders continue to support Common Core.

Senate Education Chairman Conrad Appel is a passionate supporter of the standards, saying they will help lift Louisiana from its dismal education rankings.

Appel, R-Metairie, said Common Core opponents are "going to have to explain to the people of Louisiana why they want to go back in time to the bad old days. If they can do that successfully, then they can win. But they're not going to convince me of that."

He added: "They're not going to get past me without a fight."

More than 40 states adopted Common Core, developed by states to allow comparison of students' performance.

Jindal once supported the standards, saying they would help students better prepare for college and careers. But the Republican governor changed his mind last year, calling them an Obama administration effort to meddle in local education decisions.

He has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the standards and joined a lawsuit filed by Geymann and 16 other lawmakers alleging state education officials didn't properly adopt the standards.

"Even though I'm confident we'll be successful in court, I think it is absolutely critical that we have that grassroots support so we can pass legislation in the next legislative session not only to repeal Common Core, but to replace it," the governor said.

Geymann and several anti-Common Core colleagues traveled to Oklahoma to get a closer look at how lawmakers ended use of the standards there. One idea: make greater use of town hall meetings to drum up support and get people connected.

Six town halls have been held so far, with at least three more planned.

White, the education superintendent, said he's not focused on what he described as the political effort against Common Core.

"I've been traveling the state myself, and what I hear resoundingly from teachers is it's hard work, but we're making progress and undoing five years' worth of work would just be chaos," he said.

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