All of a sudden, because of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s change of heart on Common Core state standards, we’re learning a little something about a generally obscure state law called the Administrative Procedures Act.
That law sets out a series of requirements for the day-to-day mechanics of state government, from buying paper clips up to entering into huge contracts for highway construction or other megaprojects.
Now, though, the dusty obscurity of the act may be part of Jindal’s high-handed effort to derail the Common Core standards. The governor has issued a flurry of executive orders and letters critical of Common Core.
A lawsuit by 17 lawmakers — who failed to persuade their colleagues in the 2014 Legislature to block Common Core — also will argue that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the state Department of Education didn’t follow the Administrative Procedures Act in adopting the much-debated Common Core tests.
“It is a valid question on whether an agency can have a significant change without following the administrative process,” said state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, one of the plaintiffs and also one of the leaders of the anti-Common Core forces in the Legislature.
State Superintendent of Education John White and Chas Roemer of Baton Rouge, president of BESE, said the lawsuit is baseless, because education officials were not required by state law to do what Geymann and others are alleging. “There is no legal basis for their claim whatsoever,” White said.
Geyman’s group would not disclose who is paying for its lawsuit, although it’s a safe bet the taxpayer will pay for the defense by BESE and the state department.
We do not know if the lawmakers have legal standing to make this challenge. Certainly, in the court of public opinion, they are sore losers, who tried and failed to get their way through the democratic process and in a last-minute maneuver try to win in the courts.
But if the suit does go to trial, it will do more than entertain — if that is quite the word — listeners with discussions of the dry language of the Administrative Procedures Act.
What will be entertaining is for the defendants to list in elaborate detail the years, in fact more than a decade, in which not a word was heard from Jindal, Geymann or others about the administrative deficiencies of test procurement. In fact, the record will show that just a few years ago not only was Jindal an enthusiast for Common Core itself, but Jindal’s administration — and the lawmakers like Geymann who backed earlier Jindal education bills in lockstep — found no problems with the purchasing of tests and adoption of higher standards.
All the stuff that the Louisiana Constitution says BESE and the state department should do, by the way.
If Jindal and Geymann and others want to now allege a failure to follow the Administrative Procedures Act, they are indicting their own negligence in office.
Case closed, we think.