BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal took steps Wednesday to block the use of tests tied to the Common Core education standards, a move that puts him at odds with state legislative, education and business leaders but one that could help the likely 2016 presidential candidate with tea party supporters and conservative voters.
Top Louisiana education officials said the Republican governor overstepped his authority and they intend to go ahead and roll out the standards and the testing tied to them.
Jindal once supported Common Core, but reversed his stance earlier this year. He says federal officials are using the English and math standards adopted by most states as a method for wresting education control from local officials.
“Common Core’s become a one-size-fits-all program that simply doesn’t make sense for our state,” Jindal said at a news conference.
The standards, adopted by more than 40 states, are a grade-by-grade benchmark of what students should learn in English and math. They were developed by states, allowing states to compare their students’ performance.
Supporters of Common Core say the standards promote critical thinking and raise expectations for students, better preparing them for college and careers.
Criticism has grown as the Obama administration encouraged states to use the standards, leading to charges that the Common Core is an effort to nationalize education and remove authority over content and curriculum from local control.
But unlike in other states where Republican leaders have yanked the multi-state education standards from public school classrooms, Jindal lacks support from state lawmakers. And Jindal’s stance pits him against his own hand-picked education superintendent.
Both the Louisiana Legislature and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education support the standards.
Jindal’s executive authority is limited, so he sought to strike at tests from the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers that are linked to the standards, as a backdoor way to get Louisiana out of Common Core.
“This does get us out of Common Core, because Common Core to my mind is defined by the test,” the governor said.
He also said he’ll ask lawmakers next year to revisit the debate and adopt state-specific education standards that he’s asking the education department and state education board to develop.
“We are completely committed to high standards for our students here in Louisiana. You can certainly have high standards without giving up control of our educational system to the federal government,” Jindal said.
But whether the governor’s announcement will stop any state education plans remained in question Wednesday.
“He doesn’t have the authority that he’s articulating that he has,” said Chas Roemer, chairman of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, usually a Jindal ally.
Among a series of anti-Common Core actions, Jindal issued an executive order requiring a competitive bid process for public school standardized tests and sent a letter to the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers saying the state isn’t planning to use its tests.
The Department of Education and the education board planned to use the Common Core-related testing for students in third- through eighth-grades, but the tests haven’t yet been purchased for the upcoming school year.
Jindal said the tests in question appear to be the most expensive available, so he’s confident they couldn’t be chosen in competitive bidding when Louisiana law requires the state to choose the lowest bidder.
But Superintendent of Education John White and Roemer said the governor’s executive order won’t change the roll-out of Common Core in classrooms or the use of the standardized test, called PARCC.
“We’re planning on going ahead and implementing the plan that’s in accordance with state law and with what we’ve been doing for four years,” White said.
White said his department can buy test questions under an existing contract with an outside vendor. The Jindal administration responded by saying it would suspend that contract.
White said his lawyers are researching the issue and what happens next.
“We’ll have to figure out what the legal options are,” he said.
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