in , , , ,

Jindal vs. Common Core: Round 3 Three things to keep in mind about Jindal’s latest attack on the Common Core State Standards

Bobby Jindal wanted to be a contender. He wanted to be somebody…

…specifically, President of the United States.

And for a while, at least – back in the days before his disastrous State of the Union response – everyone thought Jindal was the next big thing. However, over the course of his tenure as Governor, it’s become obvious that Jindal is trying to punch above his weight, and consequently, he’s gone from GOP wunderkind to persona non grata.

This is about as close as Bobby's gonna get to the White House
This is about as close as Bobby’s gonna get to the White House

But Bobby Jindal isn’t the type of man who lets frighteningly long odds deter him and he’s pressed forward with laying the groundwork for a presidential run, as illustrated by his sudden conversion from steadfast Common Core supporter to avowed enemy of the standards.

Although the Governor’s previous attempts to kill CCSS ended in failure, Jindal renewed his attack on Common Core at a press conference on Wednesday, announcing that he would support bills to replace the standards during the upcoming legislative session.

While Common Core supporters are understandably tired and frustrated by the Governor’s refusal to leave the standards well enough alone, there is reason for hope. Here are three things to keep in mind about Jindal’s latest plan…

I. Jindal’s Renewed Assault On Common Core Is A Diversionary Tactic

As columnist Stephanie Grace pointedly noted in The Advocate,

“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.”

Yep, Bobby Jindal’s fiscal policies have gotten the state in one hell of a mess. Thanks to the huge tax cuts the Governor pushed seven years ago, lawmakers are now scrambling to figure out how to fill a projected $1.6 billion hole in the 2015-16 state budget. Jindal’s proposed remedy to fill the looming budget gap would require painful cuts to state services, including higher education. USA Today blasted Jindal’s approach in an editorial in recent weeks, saying:

“Jindal, who long ago took a pledge never to raise taxes, has cut higher education and resorted to unsustainable one-time remedies such as draining reserve funds and selling state assets.”

The Governor’s fiscal policies are even drawing criticism from members of his own party. In a newsletter to constituents, GOP State Rep. Jay Morris called Jindal’s proposal “insane” and noted, “the insanity has its roots in the Governor’s pledge to the Americans for Tax Reform,” the anti-tax group founded by Grover Norquist. Jindal is also taking flak from conservative pundits, such as blogger Scott McKay, who recently lambasted the Governor’s tax plan in the pages of the American Spectator:

”Jindal has been patching budget holes for years by raiding the various dedicated funds to create a balanced budget out of whole cloth. Those funds having been largely drained, the $1.6 billion is a real deficit and the piper is demanding his payment.”

Bobby Jindal shows reporters the mess he's created.
Bobby Jindal is trying to tidy up the mess he’s created.

For Jindal, who’s desperately trying to position himself as a viable presidential candidate, the timing of the budget crisis couldn’t be worse. The beating he’s taking in the press over the shortfall is damaging his national image and undermining the rosy picture he’s been painting of his tenure as Louisiana’s Governor. Seeing that his approval ratings already stand at a dismal 27%, the Governor needs to divert the public’s attention from the budget crisis and quick.

Enter Common Core. By launching a new attack on CCSS, Jindal is creating a political sideshow in an attempt to take the spotlight off the deep cuts in state services coming down the pike. It’s a classic Jindal move: cynically trying to keep his presidential dream afloat by throwing Louisiana’s teachers and students over the side.

II. Jindal’s Anti-Common Core Legislation Is So Poorly Conceived It’s (Almost) Laughable

As the old saying goes, “the devil is in the details,” and when one looks closely at the specifics in Governor Jindal’s strategy to jettison Common Core, it has disaster written all over it.

To start, Jindal’s plan would have the state revert to Louisiana’s old Grade Level Expectations (which haven’t been updated since S.Y. 2004-05) while the state develops new standards to replace Common Core. After districts have spent millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours on the transition to CCSS, Jindal would effectively force educators to start this whole process all over again. Nevertheless, the Governor doesn’t seem to care. As BESE president Chas Roemer said, “It is so clear that he is only concerned about one thing, and that is his own politics.”

John White (left) and Chas Roemer don't mince words about Jindal's CCSS plan.
Don’t let the preppy vibe fool you: White & Roemer are bulldogs when it comes to CCSS.

Furthermore, Jindal’s convoluted plan for developing new math and reading standards would require their vetting and approval by both the Legislature and school boards across Louisiana. In response, State Superintendent John White warned that the process would become a political quagmire:

“Every elected official in the state having to do with education, from school board members to the legislature, would all have to vote on draft standards and review them – an unprecedented scheme of bureaucracy.”

In short, while Jindal is portraying himself as a “small government” conservative on the national stage, he wants to create a costly bureaucratic nightmare in Louisiana at a time when our state cannot afford it.

III. Defeating Jindal’s Anti-Common Core Effort Would Be A Mortal Blow To His Presidential Ambitions

As I said in a post last year, “Common Core doesn’t seem like a hill worth dying on, and yet Jindal is charging up the slope in a full frontal assault on CCSS.” If we’re able to defeat Jindal’s anti-Common Core legislation this session, we can turn the Governor’s latest attack on the standards into the political equivalent of Pickett’s Charge.

Jindal's latest attack on Common Core as envisioned by Ken Burns.
Jindal’s latest attack on Common Core as envisioned by Ken Burns.

To say that Jindal’s presidential campaign is struggling is an understatement – if anything, it’s on life support and a priest is about to be called to administer the last rites. Recent presidential polls have consistently placed Jindal near the bottom of potential GOP contenders. In fact, the Washington Post didn’t even include him in their Republican nomination bracket earlier this week, even though has-beens like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump made the cut.

Jindal’s weakened position raises the stakes for his latest plan to eliminate Common Core. A defeat at the hands of lawmakers would be deeply embarrassing for Jindal, demonstrating just how unpopular he’s become in his own state. Given his already low standing in the polls, it’s hard to imagine how Jindal’s reputation could recover from such a blow. That’s something that opponents of Jindal’s policies – especially Democrats in the Legislature – should keep in mind.

Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.


Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You can encrypt your comment so that only Peter Cook can read it.

No Excuses for This Charter School

Education Research Annoyances In New Orleans