Battle Continues Between Louisiana Gov. Jindal and State Superintendent over Common Core Exit

Battle Continues Between Louisiana Gov. Jindal and State Superintendent over Common Core Exit

A heated battle between Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and the state’s defiant superintendent John White demonstrates the bitterness of Common Core supporters as more states exit both the standards and the multi-state test consortia.

The intense debate between Jindal and White is over the governor’s decision to remove his state from the controversial standards and from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), its Common Core test consortium.

Jindal won the approval of grassroots groups opposed to the Common Core standards last week when he removed his state from PARCC. White and the state’s board of education president, however, immediately declared that Jindal’s move was illegal and defiantly asserted that Louisiana “will implement the Common Core State Standards, as well as… PARCC for the 2014-2015 school year.”

Jindal announced that he removed his state from PARCC based on the Louisiana Department of Education’s (LDE) unlawful decision to bypass the state’s procurement law which requires an open bidding process.

“PARCC does not allow a competitive bidding process which is required under Louisiana law,” the governor said during a press conference on June 18th. “BESE [Board of Elementary and Secondary Education] didn’t follow the rules.”

Within hours of White’s bold statement that Common Core will continue, however, the state’s Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols launched an investigation into the superintendent’s use of a 2003 testing contract to bring the PARCC test into Louisiana, a move that suggested he was attempting to maneuver around the state’s competitive bidding contract procurement laws.

Subsequently, as local NBC 33 affiliate reported, Nichols announced that the Office of Contractual Review ordered a temporary suspension of approval of the contracts. In addition, White has been ordered to turn over all documentation concerning the state’s contracts with PARCC, including invoices, contracts, memos, and emails.

White, however, who is supported by BESE president Chas Roemer, argued that it was Jindal who was breaking the law by removing the state from PARCC.

Jindal “breached a constitutional line and broke the law in suspending assessments in Louisiana for reasons that defy the civil rights of our state’s citizens,” White told Politico on Wednesday.

He added that Jindal was denying students the opportunity of the great benefit of Common Core and the high bar it sets for students across the country.

In a legal memorandum released on Thursday, however, Thomas Enright, Executive Counsel to the Governor, debunked the claims made by White and Roemer that Jindal’s action to remove Louisiana from the Common Core standards and PARCC was illegal.

Enright made the following points:

1) The legislature is clear when it adopts a statewide code or set of standards, and it has not done so with Common Core or PARCC.

2) The applicable law requires that 2014-2015 standards-based assessments be based on “nationally recognized content standards”, but does not define that term.  Further, the applicable law does not specify any particular provider of standards-based assessments, and there are multiple providers of assessment products other than the one developed by PARCC. 

3) The applicable law does not specify any specific content standard for the State of Louisiana and does not prohibit the state from developing its own content standards.

“[W]e disagree with the assertion that Louisiana law mandates the use of Common Core or PARCC,” said Enright, “or restricts BESE and LDE from developing Louisiana statewide content standards or standards-based assessments…”

Accusing the governor of focusing on legal technicalities rather than the overarching goal of improving Louisiana’s schools, White retorted, “The status quo side that doesn’t want change wants to make this all about contracts and procurement issues that don’t really have anything to do with children.”

In the meantime, White said once his attorneys at the LDE have reviewed Enright’s memorandum, he may still file suit.