Will Jindal dismantle Common Core?

by Patrick Flanagan

With lawmakers refusing to scrap the Common Core, the fight over Louisiana's use of the education standards shifted Tuesday to Gov. Bobby Jindal.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - With lawmakers refusing to scrap the Common Core, the fight over Louisiana's use of the education standards shifted Tuesday to Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Opponents of the English and math benchmarks used to judge students across most states are pressuring Jindal to take executive action to remove Louisiana from the Common Core and its standardized testing, known as PARCC.

The Republican governor, a one-time supporter of the standards who is now a critic, said he's studying his legal options. He wants Louisiana to develop state-specific standards and has compared the standards to a federal takeover akin to "centralized planning ... in Russia."

"This is a one-size-fits-all federal approach. There's a rush to implement these standards without listening to the concerns of parents," Jindal said Monday. "There are some things we can do, and we'll certainly be looking at every one of those."

But whether the governor can do or will do anything remains unclear.

Superintendent of Education John White, a Common Core supporter, said the governor doesn't have the legal authority to yank Louisiana away from the education benchmarks.

White said the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education sets the standards under law, and he said a 2012 law spells out that the state must use nationally recognized content standards.

"It's a pretty straight-up thing," White said. "It's no secret the direction in which we are going and the law is on our side. BESE has the power to set the standards, and BESE set the standards."

Jindal's office didn't answer questions Tuesday about what legal options the governor believes he could use to try to jettison the Common Core.

Lawmakers, who wrapped up their work a day earlier, rejected efforts in their three-month legislative session to scrap the use of the education standards and the testing.

The standards are being phased into Louisiana's public school classrooms, and the PARCC testing is set to be used in third grade through eighth grade next year.

Supporters of Common Core and the PARCC testing say they promote critical thinking and raise expectations for students. They say the tests are more rigorous than Louisiana's most recent slate of standardized tests.

Critics of the standards say they would nationalize education, removing authority over content and curriculum from local control and jeopardizing student privacy.

Lawmakers made one change on Common Core, agreeing to delay the consequences of using the standards until the 2016-17 school year, one year longer than the policy adopted by the state education board. That bill awaits a decision by Jindal.

But opponents of Common Core say the governor could remove Louisiana from using the standards and the tests through executive action.

"At this moment, it's in the hands of the governor," said Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, a vocal critic of the standards. "He gives the impression he is not for it and his comments related to PARCC and Common Core continue to grow more serious and direct. Only time will tell whether or not he acts on this."