Gov. Bobby Jindal wants Louisiana out of the Common Core education standards. There’s just one problem: his executive power has legal limits, and he can’t unilaterally yank the state out of Common Core.
So his administration is finding ways to chip away at Common Core, seeking to keep the state Department of Education from being able to use the tests associated with the standards as a sort of back-door undermining.
“I’m going to get us out of Common Core,” Jindal declared last Wednesday as he announced steps to block use of a standardized test linked to Common Core.
Whether the Republican governor’s efforts will derail Common Core remains unclear, but his actions are drawing national attention as he builds toward a possible campaign for the GOP’s presidential nomination.
Superintendent of Education John White and Chas Roemer, president of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, say Jindal has overstepped his authority. They say they intend to continue with the roll-out of the standards in Louisiana’s public schools.
“The laws don’t support his position. The laws support our position,” Roemer said.
Common Core, adopted by more than 40 states, is a grade-by-grade benchmark of what students should learn in English and math. They were developed by states as a way to better prepare students for life after high school.
Supporters of Common Core say the standards promote critical thinking and raise expectations for students. But criticism has grown as President Barack Obama’s administration encouraged states to use the standards, leading to charges by Jindal and others that Common Core is an effort to nationalize education.
Jindal initially supported Common Core but reversed his stance a few months ago, saying he was “alarmed’’ about the loss of local control over curriculum and educational systems.
Roemer, a Republican, accused the governor of playing politics, opposing Common Core as a way to appeal to tea party organizations and conservative voters who could help him with a presidential bid.
“There’s no other way to explain a 180-degree turn,” Roemer said.
Other states that have adopted Common Core only to later reverse course – Oklahoma, South Carolina and Indiana, for example – made that decision with support from state lawmakers and their governors.
But Jindal didn’t get legislative support to shelve the standards.
At the start of the legislative session in the spring, the governor offered lawmakers no guidance about what he wanted on Common Core even though the issue was a bubbling controversy and is now apparently one of Jindal’s chief concerns.
He didn’t mention the education standards in his opening-day speech to lawmakers and dodged questions about his stance until a month after the session began, when he announced direct opposition to Common Core.
Jindal took little public action to persuade lawmakers to his case, and lawmakers refused to shift to Louisiana-specific standards before they wrapped up their work earlier this month.
Meanwhile, there are other roadblocks to the governor’s push to undo Common Core, including a 2012 law that spells out Louisiana must use nationally recognized content standards. In addition, the authority for setting standards rests with the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. A majority of its members support Common Core and recently took votes reaffirming the commitment.
That leaves Jindal looking for indirect routes to sidetrack Common Core.
Lawyers for the governor’s office and the education department are picking through the nuances of state procurement and contracting laws as key points in the dispute.
Jindal acknowledged his approach of striking at the Common Core-linked test wasn’t the most straightforward way to jettison the standards.
“I think this is a good first step,” the governor said. “I don’t think it’s the perfect solution. I think the comprehensive solution is for Louisiana to develop our own standards and our own tests.”
Jindal said he’d ask lawmakers to revisit the issue in the 2015 legislative session that begins next spring.
The back-and-forth maneuvering offers little definitive information for teachers and parents about what tests students will be taking when Louisiana schools resume classes this fall.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Melinda Deslatte covers the Louisiana Capitol for The Associated Press.