Department of Education (DOE) Superintendent John White, who was hand-picked and appointed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, said he and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) will defy Jindal’s demand that the state be rid of the controversial Common Core State Standards.
The Common Core State Standards were adopted by the state in 2010, encompassing English language arts (ELA) and math. Full implementation of the standards did not come until this past school year, bypassing a transitional year that was originally planned.
Jindal, via a letter to the Division of Administration Commissioner Kristy Nichols, requested that the test-taking counterpart to Common Core, known as Partnership of Assessments for College and Career Readiness (PARCC), be withdrawn from state schools, which would then essentially withdraw the nationally recognized standards.
White and BESE, however, are not having any of that. White said, just an hour after Jindal’s announcement, that the governor holds no power over the state of education in Louisiana, rather BESE has full control. White said Common Core will continued to be implemented in the state for the 2014-2015 academic school year.
Chas Roemer, president of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said he, White, and Jindal all signed an agreement in 2010 to develop tests that would allow the state’s performance to be measured in comparison with other states, and that Jindal did not have the authority to withdraw the state from Common Core without support from both Roemer and White.
Roemer said continuing down the Common Core path was BESE’s legal obligation, and called Jindal’s actions a political ploy.
“Four years ago, our board committed to measuring learning in comparison with states across the country, and two years ago the Legislature put this plan into the law. BESE is continuing to implement that law,” Roemer said.
“State and federal law have long required that Louisiana measure literacy and math performance through standards and annual tests,” White said. “By using test forms and questions that make results comparable among states, we are following the Legislature’s mandate that we not only measure but also compete.”
In White and BESE’s corner are the teachers unions. For instance, the Louisiana Association of Educators (LAE) teachers union claims that the move by Jindal to try and get the state out of Common Core puts parents and teachers into a political fight.
“It worries us that Governor Jindal waited so long to make a decision that puts school districts and teachers in a bind when it comes to making sure everything is ready for the first day of school,” LAE President Debbie Meaux said. “The focus should be on what’s best for Louisiana’s school children.”
In Jindal’s corner are Louisiana Republicans such as State Rep. Paul Hollis (R-Mandeville), Craig McCulloch, who is running for the 6th Congressional District seat, and State Rep. Brett Geymann (R-Lake Charles). Geymann took to this Facebook page to point out the facts about Jindal’s decision.
Not to mention, the Office of Contractual Review (OCR) ordered a temporary suspension of approval of the contracts between Data Recognition Corporation and the Department of Education, pending further review. Nichols said that the Louisiana DOE may be indicating that it is limitless in power of state contracts, such as the one which implements the PARCC Assessment.
“The Department of Education has suggested it has unlimited authority to use a state contract, paid for by taxpayers, for a purpose for which it was not intended,” said Nichols. “Under Louisiana law, the Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education are prohibited from entering into a contract for the purpose of circumventing the laws governing procurement. For these reasons, we have issued a stay of the services under the contract until the OCR has had an opportunity to review it and obtain more information about how the Department is exercising its authority under the contracts.”
Jindal has said in the past that BESE broke state law by disregarding the “competitive bid process” before approving the implementation of the PARCC Assessment. Jindal signed an executive order mandating that BESE bid out for a new assessment for students, but BESE claimed they did not break the law.
Jindal’s decision to get the state out of Common Core is nothing new for Republican governors across the country. Most recently, Oklahoma Republican Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation that will fully repeal Common Core, the first state to do so in the country. The bill requires that new standards be developed and they must be “sufficiently” different than those of the Common Core.
South Carolina Repulican Gov. Nikki Haley has also blasted Common Core. She just signed a bill that will drop the controversial state standards and replace them with new ones in time for the 2015-2016 school year. Until then, the standards will be used.