Thousands turn out for Bobby Jindal's prayer rally at LSU; students, activists protest too _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- La. Gov. Bobby Jindal

Three quick takes on Gov. Bobby Jindal’s latest press conference on Common Core:

1. The way Jindal talked at today’s press conference and in his press release announcing a “Plan to Get Common Core Out of Louisiana,” you’d think the education standards are the most pressing problem facing Louisiana today. Seems to me that just about everyone else thinks the biggest threat is the $1.6 billion budget hole. If only Jindal were holding press conferences, demanding specific solutions and generally showing the same sense of urgency over what to do about that.

2. Thanks to strong pushback from the Legislature, not to mention Education Superintendent John White and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jindal got nowhere in his fight to get rid of Common Core during last year’s legislative session.

The message out of today’s announcement is that, this time, he’s not fooling around. Instead, he plans to use all the strong-arm tools at his office’s disposal, both official and informal — including bypassing the House Education Committee, which refused to pass anti-Common Core legislation in 2014.

The last time Jindal came on so strong on education was in 2012, when he used every tactic in the book to push through a broad overhaul that expanded choice, rolled back teacher tenure and increased the availability of private school vouchers.

Back then, though, he was a newly re-elected governor fresh off a landslide win. Now, he’s a lame duck with dreadful approval ratings and facing widespread Jindal fatigue among legislators. I’m not sure how much leverage he still has to expend on this. On the other hand, three of four candidates to replace Jindal, including fellow Common Core flip-flopper David Vitter, also want out. So maybe some lawmakers will find themselves consulting with a possible future governor as much as the current one.

3. Jindal’s comments today include the most explicit criticisms I’ve seen of the standards themselves, at least as far as language arts goes. In the past, the governor’s mostly railed against alleged federal control (even though Common Core was developed by states and adopted in Louisiana with his support), and cracked a few jokes about the program’s problem-solving approach to teaching math.

“These new standards will also set minimum requirements for English Language Arts by giving equal consideration to elements that have been minimized in the Common Core standards, like classic literature and complete works of literature. The new standards will also set minimum requirements for the use of math algorithms that consistently result in a correct answer and follow traditional formulations to combat Common Core’s use of what Governor Jindal called ‘fuzzy math,’ ensuring students are learning both how to achieve the right answer and the right answer,” the press release said.

His plan also calls for the new standards to be adopted by the Legislature, not just BESE, and that raises a worrisome new question: Do we really want our local legislators determining what and how students are taught in school?

Editor's note: Stephanie Grace's political column appears in The Advocate on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. She also blogs at Grace Notes.