Common Core: Stay, Go or Fix

I’m very concerned about all of the lawsuits and legal commotion surrounding the Common Core State Standards that were adopted by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the BESE Board in 2010. These standards are described as fundamental descriptions of reading, writing, and math skills that focus on the ability to think independently.

As a legislator, complaints I’ve received about Common Core from parents include its educational “sticker shock” on students, who are unable to complete the work, even after several hours per night that the parents spend helping their children, and from teachers, who don’t have current material or sufficient direction. Others have warned that the standards are nothing more than a vast conspiracy masterminded by East Coast mad scientists and financed by West Coast techies to be shoved down the throats of the rest of us and that Common Core is nothing more than the educational version of Obamacare.

On the other hand, its supporters insist that it is essential to upgrade Louisiana educational outcomes, which we all know have been at the bottom or towards the bottom of rankings for decades. By ignoring the standards, Common Core proponents warn, Louisiana students are just going to fall further behind.

So who’s right? Is Common Core so fundamentally flawed that it needs to be thrown out and start over? Common Core does not have the best connotation these days and has come to personify everything bad about an overreaching federal government ruining education and brainwashing our children.

Still we do live in a standardized test world, and those pesky test scores, more than anything else, determine a student’s choice of college or graduate school or scholarship assistance, be the test the ACT, SAT or the Graduate School Exams like the LSAT. If the standardized tests are undergoing change, is it risky to ignore this?

Now the matter is apparently in the courts and do we really want public policy dictated by the courts?

I would like to hear from people on the front lines that are dealing with Common Core directly. Is it working or not? Does it need to be scrapped? Does it need to be fixed? Can it be fixed?

I would like to try to initiate a blog discussion on this very important topic so that I as a legislator can get some direction and possibly help address the issue in the next legislative session.

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2014 Legislative Session Wrap

Attached below is a PDF with highlights and information from the 2014 legislative session provided by House Legislative Services.

2014 Final Legislative Session WRAP

 

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Sarcastic Varney Editorial Disrespectful to St. Tammany Citizens

The recent editorial by James Varney entitled “The anti-fracking concert tour continues in St. Tammany” was unnecessarily disrespectful to St. Tammany citizens by making fun of legitimate community concerns over fracking in St. Tammany Parish.  Mr. Varney apparently has little regard for the  microbiologist who spoke at the Monday night meeting and summarily discounted her presentation.  Perhaps he might be more influenced  by a fellow journalist, namely Wall Street Journal energy reporter Russell Gold, who wrote the recent book entitled The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World.  

In addition to outlining the history of fracking, the author points out serious problems which developed in certain communities in Texas, New York and Pennsylvania where concentrated drilling activity outpaced proper planning and precautions.  Gold concludes his book as a general proponent of fracking activity, but with the following caveat “What’s the rush?”

That seems to be the same sentiment of St Tammany citizens and public officials who are trying to understand the impact of the activity on their daily lives.  The author also points out, contrary to Mr. Varney’s unsubstantiated speculation, that energy use is actually decreasing in the United States due to conservation and more energy efficient vehicles, including the trucks and SUV’s that Mr. Varney apparently has such a problem with

Mr. Varney concludes his article with the statement that “disaster is neither guaranteed nor likely.”  This “don’t worry” attitude is contrary to some of the serious fracking issues that some of my colleagues in the legislature have confided to me and which include noise, smells, pollution, congestion and ruined roads.  In fact, one of my colleagues compared the scope of fracking operations in his area to a large military maneuver and contrasted his remote rural location with the much more populated site of the proposed drilling in St. Tammany. 

In fact, the fracking site chosen off I-12 and Highway 1088 is zoned residential and is 2000 feet from a school.  St. Tammany citizens have a right to be concerned as their community and quality of life is at risk. 

 

Tim Burns

State Representative District 89

 

Link to the above referenced article:  http://bit.ly/1nGPuLR

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Legislation Requires Notice and Public Hearing for Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation

The House and Governmental Affairs Committee of the Louisiana House Of Representatives today approved HB 406 by Representative Tim Burns by substitute, which requires certain persons seeking a permit from the Office of Conservation of the Department of Natural Resources for an operation that involves hydraulic fracture stimulation in a parish in which hydraulic fracture stimulation has not occurred to follow certain notice and public hearing requirements.

Representative Burns filed the bill by substitute because of his concern that the current accelerated timetable for approving hydraulic fracture stimulation would not allow time for adequate public input and consideration.

“There has never been hydraulic fracture stimulation in St. Tammany and the citizens and public officials of St. Tammany need to be fully informed about the full impact on the parish of hydraulic fracture stimulation. I had requested that the applicant voluntarily delay the application, but I received no response to my request. Adequate notice and public input is an important part of the democratic process and activities with such a profound effect on a community require such notice and input,” said Representative Burns.

Representative Paul Hollis said, “House Bill 406 by my colleague and neighbor Representative Tim Burns is common sense legislation that enhances transparency and encourages citizen engagement. By requiring a 30-day public notice from companies looking to expand operations in parishes where hydraulic drilling is non-existent, the citizenry will have adequate time to meet with their elected officials and voice their support or concern.”

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Taking the Politics Out of Political Sex Scandals

Just when we thought that we had heard it all with political sex scandals; including the shirtless “Craigslist Congressman” and Wienergate, parts 1 and 2, we have a brand new Made for You Tube scandal featuring Louisiana’s own “Kissing Congressman,” U.S. Rep Vance McAllister. This new saga combines the best of sensational journalism with reality TV, as the Duck Dynasty supported Congressman admitted that his amorous conduct with an office aide “fell short,” as did his awareness of office surveillance cameras. Now McAllister seeks redemption not only from his family and the Lord, but also from the famed Duck Commander, who already has a proven track record for political miracles in Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District.

As this sad episode plays out, political figures are urging the Congressman to do the “right” thing, which is, of course, to resign immediately and focus the necessary attention on family reparations, while hopefully un-focusing attention on the pesky scandal, so that it does not interfere with party’s prospects in the looming fall elections.
And there seems to be no immediate end in sight to the saga, with the media featuring a scorecard of previous political scandals, while it compares and speculates on the fate of the latest errant politician in this newest episode of Survivor: Sex Scandal.

But there are nonpolitical considerations to be examined as well, one of them being the trauma being inflicted on Congressman McAllister’s family. Kelly Duncan McAllister seems to be a really nice lady, who enjoys raising their five children. Like most political spouses, including mine, she never asked for the limelight of the political stage, but agreed to go along with the campaign for the benefit of her spouse. Now she has likely become the scandal’s most grievously injured victim, with emotional scars being branded on her and her children, her life being cruelly assigned a permanent asterisk as the scorned wife of the Kissing Congressman. I have been involved in some brutal campaign slug-fests in my career and know they were traumatic to my family. But they were a peck on the cheek compared to what the McAllister family is having to endure.

Another nonpolitical consideration is the sheer hypocrisy of the situation, the public outcry and condemnation of another for their “sin.” Sure politicians should be held to a higher standard as public office holders, but they are hardly alone when it comes to committing adultery. Infidelity permeates every walk of life, including the media, and there is concern that straying is becoming more commonplace. Today, there are even commercial websites devoted exclusively to promoting adultery. The best known infidelity hookup site is Ashley Madison, whose slogan is “Life is short. Have an affair.” In fact, the site even offers a money back guarantee if a customer is unsuccessful in breaking the Seventh Commandment. Ashley Madison must not have to issue too many refunds since it made headlines recently by attempting to buy a pricy Superbowl ad.

When an infidelity promoting website is successful enough to afford the most expensive thirty seconds in advertising, society has a much bigger moral problem than a Kissing Congressman.

While McAllister’s conduct is certainly deplorable, let’s not be overly judgmental, but instead realize “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” The sad but true fact is that today’s society is saturated with temptation and indiscretion, and unfortunately infidelity can happen to anyone who is not vigilant.

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Lacombe Bayou Field Drilling

Helis Oil & Gas Company, LLC has recently applied with the Office of Conservation of the State of Louisiana to establish rules and regulations and to create a single drilling and production unit for the exploration for and production of oil and gas from the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, Reservoir A in the Lacombe Bayou Field, close to the Intersection of Highway 1088 and I -12 (see copy attached). I have also attached other information on this project and am posting information at www.timburns.com.  An initial hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at the Office of Conservation in Baton Rouge to create their single drilling and production unit, which would be the first step for an actual drilling permit.

Although we have requested that the company hearing be continued until the citizens and public officials can gather more information, we have not received a definite response so the timing of this matter is very pressing.

I want St. Tammany residents to be as informed as possible about all of the ramifications of this project, including risks and rewards of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (also known as Fracking). Also, the approximate 13,000 foot depth of the drilling will be through a major aquifer which provides water to most of the parish residents.

I have been in touch with both the Office of Conservation and the Louisiana Independent Oil and Gas Association, which represents the drillers and both have offered to give public presentations. I have also requested an extension from the company and will let you know when I receive a reply. This issue is developing rapidly and I will be sharing information as I will receive it.

This is obviously a very vital issue for our community and I want to hear from residents.

If you would like to be on the mailing list please click. Note that information regarding this is posted on my website, Tim Burns.com, my Facebook page, my twitter page and the balcony blog on which comments can be posted. Please don’t hesitate to call my office at 985-624-4492 with any comments or requests for information.

Tim Burns, State Representative

Lacome Bayou Field Drilling Map

Tuscaloosa Marine Shale

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Constituent Survey Responses

I recently sent out a survey to constituents with questions regarding some of the major issues to be discussed this 2014 Legislative Session. Thank you for the large number of responses, which included those completed online. Below is a general overview of the survey results.

I value all opinions. If you have not taken the survey, you can answer the questions in the polls below. If you have comments regarding a specific question or questions, please comment on this post.

Thank you,

Tim Burns, State Representative

Survey Table

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