SADOW: Will His Common Core Switch Backfire On Jindal’s Agenda?

Not satisfied with a few knowing about his having it both ways, Gov.Bobby Jindal decided to exhibit full public migration on the Common Core in State Standards issue by coming out publicly and nationwide against this measure he had previously (years ago without any publicity) endorsed. While this has ramifications for the issue, it’s more likely the effects of the announcement will have a greater impact on others.

Jindal argued in nationally-distributed opinion piece that he turned against it because the “federal government became increasingly involved,” although he does not specify in what way nor how that is connected to curriculum, which, as the state superintendent in 2010 when CCSS was adopted by the state Paul Pastorek notes, none of the intended curricula in Louisiana had any shaping done by federal government standards. Nonetheless, Jindal claimed it was “Washington determining curriculum,” even as he admitted “it still is not a curriculum” but that it somehow would evolve into one by unspecified means because it must “teach to the test” – even as Pastorek makes clear the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, the consortium that is deciding on a common assessment mechanism of which Louisiana is a member, that the only federal involvement with PARCC was to pay for the 17 states to formulate a test on their own.

The PARCC argument Jindal makes naturally extends from his recent announcement that he wanted Louisiana to withdraw from it. By his rationale, this means no “nationally shaped” exam would force a teaching to the test that automatically would slam the state’s curricula into the mold set by the alleged federal curriculum. But, the problem is, the agreement with PARCC unambiguously does not allow a governor to withdraw from it, requiring also the assent of the superintendent, John White, and the head of the body that appoints him the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Chas Roemer. Neither have wavered in support of PARCC and CCSS.

And Jindal may know this and perhaps even count on it. By articulating opposition to CCSS through an exit of PARCC, but being unable to achieve it legally, he can claim he was against it to please the more conspiratorial members of the left (because they think it empowers corporations) and the right (because they think it empowers government) yet acquiesce to its becoming law.

Yet this more aggressive halving of the baby may prove too clever by half. With his initial remarks of opposition to PARCC, this got up the dander of supporters who had counted on him, if not received assurances of support by him, to back the measure to the end. Had Jindal left it at that, that annoyance might have been minimal, and no further efforts of his on behalf of uprooting PARCC in Louisiana might have settled them down largely.

However, in now going national on this and linking PARCC exit to CCSS rejection, this only twists the knife harder. His legislative allies forsworn on this will feel more inconvenienced, for these repeated declarations return momentum to the movement to get rid of CCSS. Up to the point of Jindal’s recantation, the issue had all the makings of a roman candle, spewing brightly and hotly for moments, then dying down completely. Now these words may have reinvigorated opposition, with opponents now believing they have Jindal’s energetic blessing and obviously without a veto threat looming, which may attract more opponents that makes supporters expend more resources to defeat repeal, still the likeliest outcome.

With only finite political capital available, these supporters, most Republicans of whom have found themselves natural Jindal ideological allies, may resent having to pull back on other priorities to try to put out this fire. And the most natural place in the world to do so would be on Jindal priorities, such as the effort to rein in unaccountable and politicized regional flood control agencies.

It could be that Jindal’s expansion of the front came as a way to curry favor among a cadre of legislators known as the “budget hawks,” whoforced some modification on Jindal’s budget last year but who this year seem more enamored with cancelling CCSS. By jumping into their bed, he may think he more easily can steer them away from chipping away at this year’s budget – and, given the attention they seem to have given to the spending blueprint this year, he succeeded. Still, by feeling as if he needed to tell the nation about his switch, Jindal may have damaged prospects for his agenda at home during this legislative session, as well as increased the level of distrust among his natural allies for the future. If so, this may turn out an unforced error when considering in a holistic sense the fate of his agenda for the remainder of his term.

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