This post was originally published on PE+CO: Louisiana Education Legislation Update
In one of the most shameless acts of political pandering in recent memory, Governor Bobby Jindal released a statement on Monday calling on legislators to withdrawal from the consortium of states developing the Partnership of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test.
Just two weeks ago, the House Education Committee soundly rejected two bills – House Bill 381 and House Bill 558 – that sought to derail the implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). House Bill 381, sponsored by Rep. Brett Geymann and Rep. J. Rogers Pope, sought to delay the full implementation of CCSS while a 30-person commission developed new state standards and their accompanying tests over the next two years. House Bill 558, filed by Rep. Cameron Henry and Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard, would have prohibited the administration of the Common Core-aligned PARCC exams.
Representatives from a broad coalition of the state’s leading business, civic, and education organizations came out to testify in support of the standards. Thanks to their efforts, the House Education Committee voted down both bills, even though Governor Jindal surprised everyone by submitting “green cards” in support of the measures.
Following their defeat, CCSS opponents vowed to continue their irrational fight against the standards, and on Monday, eight anti-Common Core lawmakers renewed their assault by sending the following letter to Governor Jindal:
April 14, 2014
Governor Bobby Jindal
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
RE: Louisiana Opt Out of PARCC Testing.
Dear Governor Jindal,
We want to thank you for publicly expressing your concerns with Common Core and PARCC testing, in your statement on March 17th.
We too, support high academic standards that help ensure Louisiana students are able to compete with every state and every country in the world. We also do not support federal, one-size-fits-all testing that potentially breaches student privacy.
We share your concerns with Common Core and PARCC, and that’s why we are working to address these issues in this year’s legislative session and in conversations with BESE.
That’s why your stated position is so important. We have reviewed the MOU carefully and sought the advice of counsel, including the Attorney General’s office staff and House staff. We believe you have the authority, as Governor, under the 2010 PARCC Memorandum of Understanding, to opt out of the Consortium.
What we have discovered is that, in short, the MOU is fatally defective. It is incomplete, vague and missing key elements of a legally binding agreement. It likely conflicts with Louisiana’s procurement laws. It also appears to be completely unenforceable by virtue of having no enforcement section and no penalties for non-compliance other than withdrawal.
If nothing else, participation is explicitly subject to availability of funding. We are facing a projected $940 million deficit for 2015-16. There have been no public hearings and discussion on the costs of CCSS and PARCC. Since we believe they may be significant, we have all the reasons we need to stop PARCC implementation now.
The consensus is that a simple announcement by the Governor that Louisiana will not comply with the ongoing commitments required to remain a “Governing State” under the Consortium, is sufficient.
Please let us know when you’d like to take this action so that we can be on hand to support you and stand with you in support of what’s best for our people and our children.
State Representative Brett Geymann
State Representative Cameron Henry
State Representative Jim Morris
State Representative Bob Hensgens
State Representative “Dee” Richard
State Representative Rogers Pope
State Representative Barry Ivey
State Representative Kenny Havard
Jindal’s statement in response is at the center of the current controversy. In it he stated:
“We share the concerns of these anti-Common Core legislators and also of parents across Louisiana. We’re hopeful that legislation will move through the process this session that will address the concerns of parents or delay implementation until these concerns can be addressed.”
The Governor also had the audacity to claim he has the power to unilaterally withdrawal the state from the PARCC consortium, stating, “We think this course of action outlined in the legislators’ letter remains a very viable option if the Legislature does not act.”
Jindal’s response marks a complete reversal of his steadfast support for Common Core during his tenure as Governor. Jindal had been a strong advocate for CCSS ever since Louisiana committed to adopting the standards in 2010 – so much so, in fact, that Jindal was recently featured in a pro-Common Core video released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as seen below:
However, in the past several weeks, Jindal has changed his tune on Common Core for no other reason than political self-interest. As it has become apparent that Jindal’s attention has shifted from Louisiana to his presumed run for President in 2016, his popularity among voters has plummeted. A poll conducted in late February put his approval rating at a dismal 35% – which, if accurate, would make Jindal one of the least popular governors in the country. Thus, his sudden turn against Common Core is widely considered to be little more than an attempt to curry favor with hardcore conservatives who turnout in droves for Republican primaries. As political columnist, James Varney, accurately remarked in the Times-Picayune:
“Politics makes strange bedfellows, to use a well-worn phrase. But the only one jumping from bed to bed here is Jindal. Regardless of what one thinks about those under the respective covers, it’s not a pretty picture.”
Jindal’s statement drew widespread opprobrium from CCSS supporters, including many of the Governor’s heretofore political allies. Chas Roemer, President of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), dismissed both Jindal’s remarks and the broader effort by anti-Common Core lawmakers to make an end-run around the legislative process, saying, “They are going to resort to parlor tricks to try and stop it.” BESE went one step further on Tuesday when it gave State Superintendent John White high marks in his annual evaluation. As the Times-Picayune‘s Danielle Dreilinger pointed out, the board’s “resounding” endorsement of White “strengthens the unified front White and the board have upheld against bills that would end the state’s participation” in Common Core.
While White sought to downplay the rift between himself and the Governor over CCSS, he nevertheless strongly rejected Jindal’s claim that he has the authority to pull Louisiana out of PARCC and gave no sign of backing away from Common Core. As Politico noted in an interview with White on Tuesday:
“The memorandum of understanding committing Louisiana to the PARCC consortium was signed three years ago by the state superintendent, the governor and the president of the state board of education. The document clearly states that the current officeholders in all of those three posts must sign off on any move to withdraw from the consortium. And White, for one, has no intention of signing.”
Although Superintendent White’s decision to stick to his guns certainly puts him in an uncomfortable position, as he said to Politico, “My job is not to think about my own job security. My job is to think about what’s right for the kids. This is right for the kids.”
In his column on Tuesday, James Varney stated, “White has taken more than a few arrows over the years on behalf of the Jindal plan. This time it seems he got a knife in the back.” However, I would argue just the opposite. White’s resolve in defending CCSS will only raise his standing among those of us who care deeply about improving public education. On the other hand, Bobby Jindal’s about-face on Common Core has only demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice his principles, his loyal allies, and the hard work of thousands of teachers and students across Louisiana in a self-serving attempt to get ahead. In short, this whole episode has shown that Jindal lacks character and he ultimately feels no obligation to anyone other than himself.
If Bobby Jindal thinks duplicity will get him to the White House, he’s in for a rude awakening.