In a press conference on Wednesday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) announced actions to remove his state from the Common Core standards and the aligned Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments.
Much of Jindal’s focus during the press conference was on the legality of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (BESE) decision to adopt the PARCC tests without first placing the state test out for bids. He said he wanted Louisiana to develop its own standards and, by law, to look at other options for tests.
“PARCC does not allow a competitive bidding process which is required under Louisiana law,” the Governor said. “BESE didn’t follow the rules.”
In a letter to PARCC officials the Governor asked the organization to immediately withdraw his state from the test consortium. Jindal also issued an executive order that instructs the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE) to begin a competitive bidding process to purchase a new assessment and called on the DOE and BESE to develop Louisiana standards that can be approved by the state legislature in the next session.
The Governor said the state is no longer committed to implement the PARCC assessment in the coming school year and rendered the state unable to comply with the terms of the June 2010 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Louisiana and PARCC due to its failure to allow for a competitive bidding process.
“It’s time for PARCC to withdraw from Louisiana,” Jindal said. “We won’t let the federal government take over Louisiana’s education standards. We’re very alarmed about choice and local control over curriculum being taken away from parents and educators.”
“Common Core has not been fully implemented yet in Louisiana, and we need to start the process over,” Jindal continued. “It was rushed in the beginning and done without public input.”
A summary of the action taken by the Governor is as follows:
1. Issued an executive order that instructs the Louisiana Department of Education to conduct a competitive process to purchase a new assessment and which prohibits the expenditure of funds on cooperative group purchasing organizations and interstate agreements;
2. Suspended the rules adopted by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education from May 2014 to ensure that the Louisiana Department of Education is able to comply with Louisiana competitive bid law;
3. Instructed the Division of Administration to conduct a comprehensive accounting of all Louisiana expenditures and resources on PARCC, what services or products have been received in return for such expenditures, and copies of all contracts in place or in negotiation for the purchase of an assessment;
4. Issued a Request for Information to PARCC requesting information about the procurement processes utilized by the consortium, by the Fiscal Agent state, and by the Lead Procurement State to ensure that these processes complied with Louisiana law;
5. Notified the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governor’s Association (NGA) of Louisiana’s termination of participation in the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
State Superintendent of Education John White and BESE president Chas Roemer, both of whom are ardent supporters of the nationalized standards, held a media briefing immediately after Jindal’s press conference in which they repeated the words of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who said Tuesday that Jindal’s turnabout on Common Core was motivated by “politics.”
Though White said during the media briefing that he would never tell school districts to “ignore” Gov. Jindal, a statement on the DOE website, dated Wednesday, contradicts the Governor’s announcement and indicates that both BESE and the DOE have reaffirmed that Louisiana “will implement the Common Core State Standards, as well as grade 3-8 test forms and questions developed by states within… PARCC for the 2014-2015 school year.”
“This is what the constitutionally elected bodies of our state agreed to,” White said during the press briefing. “The Governor’s announcement today comes at the bottom of the ninth inning.”
White and Roemer added that the laws of Louisiana are on their side.
In response to Gov. Jindal’s announcement, state Rep. Brett Geymann (R) told Breitbart News, “It is a day for all parents in Louisiana to celebrate. We are very pleased in the move by the Governor to remove us from PARCC and Common Core.”
“The Governor shares the same concerns that many of us have with the one-size-fits-all standards, the federal government’s overreach into our education decisions, and the lack of parental involvement in the process from the start,” Geymann added. “In addition, it’s significant we have not used the public bidding process to purchase our state test.”
Anna Arthurs, an organizer of a grassroots parents group that is opposed to Common Core, told Breitbart News that Jindal’s announcement is important for both Louisiana and the nation.
“Proponents of the Common Core initiative try to deny a federal overreach into education. However, this overreach is undeniable with PARCC (and SBAC) testing,” Arthurs said. “The federal government exclusively funds the test consortia. It provides curriculum frameworks to assist teachers in curriculum development. This is in direct violation of the General Education Provisions Act.”
“In the cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Education and PARCC member states, it mandates that the participating states ‘make student-level data that results from the assessment system available on an ongoing basis,'” she added. “They have even developed an oversight committee which has a role in overseeing test question development.”
“Since teachers are forced to ‘teach to the test’ with high-stakes assessments, the federal government will have more control over the resulting curriculum than the local school districts,” Arthurs said. “Gov. Jindal is taking the lead in rejecting untested, unproven standards that have yet to live up to their claim as being ‘rigorous.'”
Grassroots organizer Sara Wood told Breitbart News that Jindal “acted on behalf of the parents to restore and protect a piece of our state sovereignty and individual freedoms as parents.”
In response to White and Roemer’s comment that in passing the controversial Common Core measure the state legislature was doing the will of the people, Wood said Jindal is “carrying out his executive obligation to support and uphold our Constitution because the legislature failed.”
“With all the pushback by parents and now action by governors nationwide, it is safe to say that Common Core was sold to state leaders as one thing in 2009 but ended up as something else in 2014,” she continued. “That violates the spirit of the Constitution and three federal laws.”
“The Common Core was sold as ‘just higher standards,’ but through the initiative that surrounds it, we are taking a great leap toward unprecedented federal intervention and eventual control of education, creating common mediocrity nationwide,” Wood said.
Jamie Gass, director of the Center for School Reform at the Massachusetts-based Pioneer Institute, said, “Gov. Jindal has come to realize what more and more governors and states are learning – Common Core and the national testing consortia are Obama administration initiatives with numerous federal bureaucratic strings attached.”
“If Common Core was genuinely ‘state-led’ and ‘voluntary,’ as its DC-based advocates like to claim, then why does the U.S. Secretary of Education immediately threaten or scold any state heading for the exit door?” Gass asked.