U.S. education officials want a Baton Rouge federal judge to throw out Gov. Bobby Jindal’s lawsuit that seeks to remove the Common Core academic standards and accompanying tests from Louisiana schools.
Jindal’s suit, filed in August, contends the Obama administration illegally manipulated federal grant money and regulations to coerce states to adopt Common Core. The suit accuses the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan of “commandeering Louisiana’s educational system.”
In a motion to dismiss the suit filed Monday, attorneys for the department and secretary claim Jindal — who once backed Common Core — has no authority to challenge the education standards that were voluntarily adopted by Louisiana.
“Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which elected to adopt Common Core, has given no indication that it is likely to elect to discontinue the State’s use of the standards, and Louisiana law does not appear to give the Governor authority to discontinue the standards unilaterally,” the attorneys argue.
The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks describing what students should know after completing each grade. They were developed by states to allow comparison of students’ performance. Backers say Common Core will improve student achievement.
When BESE, the state board, adopted the Common Core standards in 2010, Jindal supported them, saying they would help students better prepare for college and careers. He reversed course earlier this year, however, and now says he opposes the standards because they are an effort by the Obama administration to meddle in state education policy.
“The (Education) Department’s focus on the alleged voluntariness of the State’s participation is a misguided attempt to avoid reaching the critical question raised in the Complaint: whether the grant conditions requiring Common Core and PARCC violate federal law,” Jindal’s attorney, Jimmy Faircloth, said Tuesday in an email. “Obviously, a State cannot consent to conduct by the Department that is expressly prohibited by federal law.”
But BESE and John White, the governor’s hand-picked education superintendent, have refused to pull Common Core from Louisiana classrooms.
Jindal sued the federal government a week after a Baton Rouge state judge paved the way for Common Core tests that the governor is trying to block.
The suit asks U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick to declare the Education Department’s actions unconstitutional and to keep it from disqualifying states from receiving Race to the Top funds based on a refusal to use Common Core or to participate in one of the testing consortia.
The Obama administration embraced the standards and encouraged states to adopt them as part of the application process for the Race to the Top grant program. Two state testing consortia — the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium — received $330 million from the grant program to develop standardized testing material tied to Common Core.
Louisiana has received more than $17 million from Race to the Top and joined the PARCC consortium. Roughly half of those funds went directly to local school districts, the governor’s suit says.