Louisana’s Jindal, State School Board Battle Over Common Core

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal began discussions over Common Core standards with the state school board and Louisiana Education Superintendent John White last Thursday, but no compromise has been reached to date.

Before the discussions, school board members had written a letter to Jindal outlining a new process for standardized testing, as Jindal had asked for.  However, the new tests would need to allow for a comparison of at least 4 million children across several states, limiting the assessments to some that Jindal may not like.

The Jindal administration responded saying it wanted the purchasing of the tests to be overseen by a Procurement Support Team, with the governor having direct involvement.  This type of involvement is rare for the education department.

“The governor’s office is going to want to participate in the policy aspects of the (test contract decision),” said Kristy Nichols, a Jindal appointee who oversees the state procurement system.

The Jindal administration stands firm in its stance that the education department did not follow state laws in its procurement of testing materials.

According to state school board president Chas Roemer, it is up to the board to set education policy, and they have chosen to stick with the Common Core. In an interview with website NOLA, White said the debate centered on whether Jindal overstepped his authority in pushing his own education agenda.

“We are talking about the powers of government, who has the ability to determine what is on the [schools standardized] test in the first place,” said White in the interview.

While the school board and superintendent want to see an assessment that uses Common Core questions, Jindal is using all of his power to block the purchasing of a Common Core test.

Jindal, who once supported the standards, believes that Common Core do not allow the state to educate its children in the way they see fit, according to Casey Ferrand for WDSU.

State Representative Walt Leger of New Orleans said the compromise proposal would keep the state in compliance with the law, “which requires that they develop and implement a common set of standards that can be tested against the rest of the nation to ensure that our students have every opportunity to compete with the best and the brightest from every state.”

It is still unclear whether an agreement will be reached before the start of the school year, meaning that teachers as well as returning students, do not know what will covered on this year’s standardized tests.

If Louisiana does not test its students, it risks losing a large portion of the state’s school budgeting funded by the federal government.

“At this moment I am not hopeful that there is a way of sitting down between BESE and the administration and working out just on the basis of conversation their difference over a simple but important question: Who gets to determine what’s on the test?” White said.