By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – What in the world is going on with Common Core in Louisiana? Has Governor Bobby Jindal pulled Louisiana out of Common Core or not? The thing is, actually, no, he hasn’t. He can’t.
Louisiana is different than a lot of states in that the state school board has much more power than one might assume; more power in educational matters than the governor.
Back up to 2011: in his zeal for education reform in Louisiana, Governor Jindal stacked the BESE Board (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) with folks favorable to his then ideas for educational reform which included Common Core and a stringent yet subjective teacher evaluation system called COMPASS:
The governor’s faction will have their way in matters of policy, including his choice for superintendent of education,[Associated Press reporter Melinda] Deslatte concedes: “Jindal’s got three appointees to the board, and most of the eight elected members espouse his support of vouchers, charter school expansion, school takeovers and teacher evaluations tied at least partly to student test scores.”
Now, back to 2014 and the friction between Education Superintendent John White and Governor Jindal is explosive. They are now on totally opposite sides of the educational issue. Now, Jindal has issued an Executive Order demanding that Louisiana drop the PARCC assessment, yet this responsibility actually lies with the BESE board, the board that Jindal created. So, since Jindal can’t actually scrap the PARCC assessment on his own, his line of argument centers on the legalities of the contract for the test:
Jindal’s officials have said the school board must pursue a new contract for the assessment, compiled by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC for short. The governor’s office could force education officials to look at other vendors besides PARCC — which is associated with Common Core — if that was the case.
White and school board president Chas Roemer maintain that they could use an existing contract with a vendor to purchase PARCC questions, thereby neutering the Jindal administration’s ability to force them to look at tests other than ones associated with Common Core. In response, the Jindal administration suspended the state contract with the vendor White and Roemer intended to use to purchase PARCC questions.
“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,” said Kristy Nichols, who heads up the state’s department that oversees contracts for Jindal, in a written statement.
And there you have the standoff.
Adding to the drama is the question of Jindal’s political future; in essence, he has done a complete reversal on Common Core, and has challenged his hand-picked BESE board, and some would question his motives. Is this a true commitment to educational reform or is it political expediency? Is it the mother of all flip-flops?
The battle is ongoing but as of now, school districts in Louisiana are preparing to go ahead with the Common Core standards this fall. Nothing has changed.
Except perhaps Governor Jindal’s fortunes.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport