Even though Louisiana public school students took the controversial Common Core tests last month, that didn’t stop a state appeals court from considering Tuesday whether a Baton Rouge judge acted properly last summer when he lifted the Jindal administration’s suspension of two state contracts needed for the tests.
Jimmy Faircloth, who represents Gov. Bobby Jindal in the case, argued to a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal that the governor’s suspension of the contracts was a lawful exercise of his executive power and state District Judge Todd Hernandez should have declined to get involved in what Faircloth called a political question.
“There was nothing unlawful about the suspension,” Faircloth told the panel.
Wendell Clark, an attorney for the state Division of Administration, added that the Jindal administration had — and continues to have — legitimate concerns about the test contracts and the new national standards being used, and the contracts were temporarily suspended to allow for an investigation and audit.
But Stephen Kupperman, who represents a group of parents, teachers and a charter school organization that sued Jindal, the DOA and others over the governor’s suspension of the contracts, argued the audit has turned up no irregularities.
“They found absolutely no cause (to suspend the contracts) and have given no cause,” he told Circuit Judges John Pettigrew, Jewel “Duke” Welch and Wayne Ray Chutz, who took Tuesday’s arguments under advisement without indicating when a ruling would be issued.
The results of the Common Core tests that Louisiana students in grades three through eight took last month in the areas of reading, writing and math are expected in October. The students will be compared to those in 10 other states and the District of Columbia that are part of the same federally funded testing consortium, called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.
Meanwhile, the Legislature is scheduled to debate in the ongoing session whether to scrap Common Core and the assessments that accompany the academic standards. The session kicked off April 13 and wraps up on June 11.
Faircloth told the 1st Circuit judges that the case before them “is not about whether Common Core is good education policy.” What the case is about, he insisted, is the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
“This case is about the checks and balances,” Faircloth said.
Welch noted that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education administers the Legislature’s education directives. Kupperman argued Jindal is interfering with the Legislature and BESE. He said state lawmakers did not give the governor authority over education policy.
“The governor has made no bones about the fact that he wants a say in education policy and he wants Louisiana out of Common Core,” Kupperman added.
BESE intervened in the lawsuit against the governor on the side of the plaintiffs.
Even though the 2014-15 Common Core tests already have been given to students, BESE attorney Phil Preis stressed to the panel that its decision is important.
“We want the court to be the proper forum to resolve a (constitutional) conflict between BESE and the Division of Administration,” he said. “The procedure that was followed was correct.”
Kupperman noted that a new contract will be needed for the 2015-16 school year.
“So we’ll see y’all again,” Welch quipped.
Jindal also is challenging Common Core in federal court.
Jindal and other critics contend Common Core is an intrusion by federal officials on local school decisions. Backers say the new academic standards are vital to improving student achievement, especially in low-performing states such as Louisiana.