Dear Commons Community,
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) took the highly unusual step yesterday of voting to join a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal — with two of the governor’s three appointees on the board voting in the 6-4 majority.
Jindal came out this spring as an opponent to the Common Core academic standards and to the new test that BESE has planned to use next year. The test was developed by a multi-state partnership. In the ensuing dispute, the Jindal administration froze the board’s testing contract for elementary and middle schools. The sides have been unable to agree on a way to move forward for tests next year.
The suit was filed last week by a New Orleans charter group and several parents. It says Jindal is overreaching into BESE’s turf. Because the suit addresses BESE’s constitutional role in determining education policy and standards, board President Chas Roemer said it was crucial that the board “be at the table.”
Jindal was previously champion of the Common Core, but turned against it earlier this year, declaring it an unwelcome intrusion on the part of the federal government.
Though the state’s legislature has upheld the Common Core, Jindal demanded that the state drop it, and suspended the state’s contracts with testing vendors who create Common Core tests.
“Jindal compared the Common Core to centralized planning in Russia. In June, he wrote on Twitter that he would “not be bullied” by the feds, and that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s “comments & actions” prove that the Common Core is indeed a “fed takeover.” Duncan accused Jindal of playing politics with education.
Jindal’s filing includes a section that describes the Common Core as “good intentions co-opted by federal coercion,” characterizing the federal government’s Race to the Top competition as “effectively compel[ling] states to adopt a single, nationalized, state of standards.” (Technically, Race to the Top, which took place during the first term of President Barack Obama, rewarded points to states for adopting college- and career-oriented common academic standards, though it did name the Common Core.)”
I am not a states rights person. Historically, a number of elected officials have used the banner of “states rights” to inflict segregation laws on local social policies including education. However, there is a kernel of truth in Jindal’s position. The Common Core is indeed well-intentioned but its implementation in many states was rushed and poorly done subjecting parents, teachers, and students to horrific education experiences. The U.S. Department of Education bears a lot of the responsibility for the poor implementation and reactions from governors such as Jindal are not surprising.