The Future of the Common Core in Louisiana

Yesterday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announced that the state would pull out of both the PARCC testing consortium as well as the Common Core Standards Initiative. This, in itself, isn’t really big news. Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina have gone down a similar path, rejecting the standards and the tests that go along with them.

Louisiana made news when State Superintendent of Education John White, shortly after Jindal’s announcement, argued that the governor lacked the power to pull the state out of the standards, and that Louisiana would continue to be a part of the PARCC consortium regardless of the Governor’s opinion.

This has entered into legal territory I am not qualified to analyze. The state signed a memorandum of understanding with PARCC stating the superintendent would have to sign off on any plan to leave the consortium, but I’m frankly not sure just how binding such a document is. Jindal also an argued that the arrangement with PARCC violated competitive bidding laws. If that wasn’t complicated enough, it appears that the state board of education has the responsibility to set standards for the state, so it’s not clear that the governor can do anything other than offer his opinion (or appoint board members that advance his agenda). Long story short, I imagine this is going to end up in court.

But legal analysis notwithstanding, Louisiana’s change of heart does raise some interesting issues.

First, what does it mean to be “a part of the Common Core Initiative?” It’s clear to me what it means to be a part of one of the testing consortia—a participating state administers the test to its students. But does simply having the Common Core standards make a state part of the Initiative? What if it has some Common Core standards but not others? In order to leave, does it have to scrub all remnants of the Common Core from the state?

On that point, it was interesting to see what Texas Attorney General (and Republican gubernatorial candidate) Greg Abbott said about the standards in the Lone Star State, where state law specifically prohibits the Common Core. The Senate Education Committee Chair sought clarification on cases where the Common Core overlaps with the Texas state standards to make sure that teaching similar material doesn’t violate the legal prohibition. Abbott wrote:

If TEKS requires teaching that 2+ 2=4, the bill plainly does not prevent this instruction simply because Common Core also teaches that 2+2=4. The Legislature was aware of the frequent overlap between the TEKS and the Common Core Standards, as evidenced by the bill author’s explanation that it was not his intent “to prevent the use of materials where the two standards may overlap.

This stands in stark contrast to Oklahoma, which appears to be requiring whatever new standards the state drafts to be demonstrably different from the Common Core. (If it’s tough to follow exactly what that means, Rick’s conversation with his cabbie might help you.) Is that what Louisiana is looking for? If so, they might be looking for a while, because even states that never adopted the Common Core seem to have standards that are a lot like them.

Finally, you should really read Andrew Ujifusa’s piece on presidential ambitions and the Common Core. Now, I think there is a possible explanation that Gov. Jindal is ticked off at the Obama administration for their strong-arm tactics in trying to stymie the state’s voucher program and he’s using the Common Core as a platform to continue fighting back against them. But, as I wrote a couple of months back, given the types of voters he needs to win over to secure a Republican presidential primary victory, the Common Core was going to be a liability for him, so it’s hard not to see this in the light of jockeying for a job in the White House.

If that is the case, it is yet another example of the pettifogging that many Common Core opponents continue to participate in, obscuring the real and reasonable case against the Common Core with hyperbole, demagoguery, and crass political maneuvering. It’s not necessary and it’s not helpful.

—Michael McShane

This post originally appeared on AEIdeas.

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