Common-Core Fight Pits La. Governor Against State Chief, Board

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 03, 2014 4 min read
Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White testifies before the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against common-core testing on July 1 in Baton Rouge, La.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Louisiana’s fight over the Common Core State Standards and the associated assessments, pitting Gov. Bobby Jindal against his state superintendent and state school board, represents a new level of political warfare concerning the standards, even amid heated debate over the common core in numerous states.

With Gov. Jindal’s office investigating the state education department over assessments, and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s July 1 vote to retain legal counsel for a possible court fight with the governor’s office, it’s unclear how the standards and tests will be affected, if at all.

Last month, Gov. Jindal, a Republican, became the first chief executive who, despite seeing his state legislature, state school board, and state chief reaffirm their allegiance to the standards and aligned tests, refused to concede political defeat. In addition, the state board governing higher education instructed colleges to continue training teachers in the common core, ignoring the governor’s actions.

Other governors opposed to the standards in similar situations have declined to take this aggressive approach. For example, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker—a Republican who is, like Gov. Jindal, thought to be interested in a presidential campaign—refused to act further when state lawmakers declined to approve a bill crafted by his staff that would have put the brakes on the standards.

Anxiety and Maneuvers

On June 18, Gov. Jindal proclaimed that the state should plan to replace the common core and the aligned tests from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career. The tests, however, appear to be where the governor has trained much of his fire, and the fight over them could ultimately come down to contract law.

His office has informed the Louisiana education department that its existing contract with the Data Recognition Corporation to be the sole provider of assessments, signed in 2011, does not allow the department to subsequently purchase the PARCC assessment without the governor’s approval.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announces efforts to remove Louisiana from tests associated with the common core on June 18 in Baton Rouge, La.

“By definition you cannot have multiple vendors capable of providing the same service in a sole source contract,” Pamela B. Rice, the interim director of the state’s Office of Contractual Review, wrote to state Superintendent John White the day after Gov. Jindal’s announcement.

The governor’s Division of Administration has also been tasked by the governor with investigating the state’s relationship with PARCC.

PARCC, in turn, has said it will continue to work in Louisiana because its bylaws state that Mr. White and Chas Roemer, the president of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, must agree with Gov. Jindal in order for the state to officially leave the consortium.

But the split between Gov. Jindal and the other two leading K-12 officials in the state isn’t a situation that PARCC (or a state) has dealt with before. It’s unclear how PARCC’s requirements for withdrawal will hold up if the matter becomes a legal battle.

More broadly, Gov. Jindal repeatedly alleged that the federal government was using the common core to infiltrate and take control of schools. (The Obama administration supports the standards and offered incentives for states to adopt them through grants, but didn’t pay for the standards or write them.)

The governor, once a supporter of the common core, said parents are “worried that the federal government is mandating what happens in classrooms.”

Others said that Washington was, indeed, the culprit for the state’s situation, but in a very different way. Mr. Roemer bluntly stated that Gov. Jindal was merely trying to appease “a very particular part of the vote in this country” as part of a campaign for the White House that was driving him to attack the common core.

“They’re maneuvers that run contrary to the democratic process and the laws of this state,” Mr. Roemer said.

Mr. White, meanwhile, said the governor has no power to stop the state’s work with either the standards or the PARCC tests. He said the state has followed all appropriate laws with respect to how it contracts for assessments. He referred to the state board’s statutory power over standards and tests: “These are in the state’s laws.”

Momentum Shift?

State Rep. Brett Geymann, a Republican and common-core opponent, said Gov. Jindal’s announcement gave new energy for those on his side heading into the 2015 legislative session, despite the legislature’s refusal to approve anti-common-core bills. “Now the landscape has changed,” he said.

Mr. Geymann conceded, however, that while he considered it likely that the state would go the way of Florida and Utah and develop its own tests, stopping the standards remained a tougher battle.

On the issue of the standards themselves, districts “have spent millions of dollars preparing for common core” and shouldn’t have the standards pulled out from under them five weeks before the next school year starts, said Scott Richard, the executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association.

He said his organization hasn’t taken a position on the legal questions over testing contracts, although the state school boards association has said that PARCC should not be administered next year given concerns about districts’ capacity for the tests.

“That’s a decision that’s going to be made likely by attorneys and judges,” Mr. Richard said of the testing dispute. “We would hope that they would be resolved sooner rather than later.”

A version of this article appeared in the July 10, 2014 edition of Education Week as Louisiana Standards Showdown: Governor vs. State Chief, Board


Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
Supporting 21st Century Skills with a Whole-Child Focus
What skills do students need to succeed in the 21st century? Explore the latest strategies to best prepare students for college, career, and life.
Content provided by Panorama Education
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum What Will It Take for Schools to Get Better?
Find out what educators and leaders can do to incite lasting and productive change that will make a difference in the lives of students.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Standards Minnesota Teachers, Parents Criticize ‘Awkward’ Tribal References in Proposed Math Standards
Teachers were somewhat more supportive of the tribal references than were parents, school board members, and school administrators.
Josh Verges, Pioneer Press
6 min read
Representatives from St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) administration, faculty and staff, students, and the Indigenous community raise a healing pole in a ceremony at the SPPS headquarters in St. Paul, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021.
Representatives from St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) administration, faculty and staff, students, and the Indigenous community raise a healing pole in a ceremony at the SPPS headquarters in St. Paul, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021.
Scott Takushi/Pioneer Press via TNS
Standards Social Studies Standards Spark Fierce Debate in N.C.
Advocates say the new standards are more inclusive because they give more attention to the perspectives of historically marginalized groups.
T. Keung Hui, The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
6 min read
Standards Opinion How the Failure of the Common Core Looked From the Ground
Steve Peha shares insights from his on-site professional-development work about why the common core failed, in a guest letter to Rick Hess.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Standards Opinion Common Core Is a Meal Kit, Not a Nothingburger
Caroline Damon argues Rick Hess and Tom Loveless sold the common core short, claiming the issue was a matter of high-quality implementation.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty