By vetoing a bill activists say would have entrenched Common Core, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has raised hopes he is preparing to pull the state out of the controversial standards once and for all.
The bill, HB 953, was passed two weeks ago as a compromise bill that suspended for one additional year any punitive actions associated with low performance on Louisiana’s new Common Core-aligned test, created by the multi-state consortium Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).
HB 953 irritated activists on both sides of the Common Core divide. Supporters of Common Core said the bill was an unnecessary delay in Common Core’s full rollout, but opponents were more vociferous, arguing that the bill’s approval would entrench Common Core and make it tougher to pull the state out in the future.
The veto bolsters those who hope Jindal will act unilaterally to dismantle Common Core and withdraw the state from the PARCC testing consortium by use of an executive order. Jindal had previously said he wanted to wait on the legislature to act, but proposals to junk Common Core and pull out of PARCC ultimately failed to pass before the end of the legislative session. Now, Jindal is sending signals that he might pull the state out on his own.
“Louisiana needs to raise the academic performance of our students so we can compete in the 21st century, but not at the expense of handing away our school system to the federal government through Common Core and PARCC,” Jindal said in his veto statement last Friday. Since his veto did nothing to actually stop Common Core from being implemented, the message seems to imply more drastic action on his part could be forthcoming.
It’s not clear that Jindal has any legal authority to act, however. Louisiana’s state superintendent of education, John White, insists that determining state education standards is the exclusive purview of the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, which continues to back the standards and is a democratically elected body not subject to Jindal’s control. The president of the BESE, Chas Roemer, has scoffed at a possible repeal of Common Core, saying Jindal has already been rebuked by the legislature.
Supporters of Common Core, including many of the state’s chambers of commerce, wrote a letter to Jindal last week saying that using the governor’s pen to abandon the standards would be severe executive overreach.
“It would suggest that the state should be governed not by the bodies that constitutionally enact education laws and policies, but by the unilateral use of the executive pen,” the letter said.
Originally a supporter of Common Core, Jindal has turned against it in 2014, steadily amping up his attacks with a series of writings and speeches. In April, he penned an op-ed for USA Today that attacked Common Core as a federal intrusion and made comparisons to the totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union.
At a Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans in May, Jindal won loud applause when he declared that he didn’t want the state to be a part of Common Core. The shift has many people thinking that Jindal is looking to 2016, where a prominent foe of Common Core could stand out to the party faithful.
The sincerity of Jindal’s change of heart has been subject to question. In May, he angered activists by failing to veto a decision by the board of education on how to implement the PARCC test.
Now, even after his recent veto, several activists are demanding he act as quickly as possible to destroy Common Core entirely. A small number of demonstrators gathered in Baton Rouge on Saturday, just one day after his veto, to urge the governor onward.
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