Gov. Bobby Jindal has no right to sue the federal government over Common Core academic standards that Louisiana voluntarily decided to use, an Obama administration attorney told a federal judge in Baton Rouge on Thursday.
In arguments before U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, an attorney for the U.S. Justice Department noted that the governor once supported the standards and that they are still backed by the state’s education board and Jindal’s hand-picked education superintendent.
But a lawyer representing Jindal argued that the U.S. Department of Education illegally manipulated federal grant money and regulations to coerce states to adopt the Common Core standards and accompanying tests.
Jindal attorney Jimmy Faircloth essentially said the federal government is forcing states down a path toward a national curriculum in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal law.
Justice Department attorney Caroline Lewis Wolverton said that isn’t true and asked Dick to throw out the suit Jindal filed in late August against the Education Department and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
“Louisiana voluntarily adopted common standards and assessments,” Wolverton told the judge. “The Louisiana governor is on record praising those standards.”
She also argued that Common Core state standards do not constitute curriculum.
“Standards and curriculum are very different things,” Wolverton said. She said standards are benchmarks and that curriculum is left to individual states.
Faircloth argued Louisiana should be able to make its decision regarding Common Core, free of federal meddling.
“Take away the (federal) encroachment, and then Louisiana will make its own sovereign decision,” he said.
“Louisiana already made the decision,” Wolverton replied later in the hearing.
Wolverton also argued that Jindal can point to no injury to the state as a result of its participation in Common Core.
“Can injury not be encroachment on the state’s sovereignty?” Dick asked.
Jindal, who did not attend the court hearing, wants the judge to declare the U.S. Education Department’s actions unconstitutional and to prevent it from disqualifying states from receiving federal Race to the Top funds based on a refusal to use Common Core or to participate in one of the testing consortia.
Dick, who was nominated to the federal bench by President Barack Obama, took Thursday’s arguments under advisement and asked for post-hearing briefs by Dec. 12. She said she would rule shortly thereafter.
The multistate Common Core standards in math and English, which the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted in 2010, are intended to help students better prepare for college and careers.
The U.S. Education Department has used a $4.3 billion grant program and federal policy waivers to encourage states to adopt uniform education standards and testing.
Jindal has accused Duncan and the Education Department of “commandeering Louisiana’s educational system.”
Duncan told “CBS This Morning” in a June interview that Jindal’s about-face on Common Core is about politics, not education. Jindal is considered a longshot 2016 Republican presidential nominee.
Jindal filed his suit one week after a Baton Rouge state judge paved the way for Common Core tests that the governor is trying to block. He wants to remove Louisiana from Common Core and the exams that go with the new academic goals.