Bobby Jindal CPAC 2014
Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) speaking at CPAC 2014 in National Harbor, MD.
Photo credit: Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

(Baton Rogue, LA) Last Saturday Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told Caffeinated Thoughts that he believed he had the authority and power to get out of Common Core and that he was going to use that power.  This afternoon during a press conference Jindal announced that he was  taking Louisiana out of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) and the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

“It is certainly no secret that I am opposed to the Common Core,” Jindal said.  “It is also no secret that parents are opposed because they are worried that the Federal government is trying to mandate education standards for their children in classrooms right here in Louisiana.  You may have also noticed a survey by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers who recently reported that a majority of teachers said we weren’t prepared, they weren’t prepared for the Common Core.”

“It is this simple.  The Federal government would like to assert control of our educational system and watch implementation of a one-size-fits-all set of standards that raises a lot of serious concerns.  We are very alarmed about choice and local control over curriculum being taken away from our parents and our educators.  Instead of focusing on high standards and giving the states the freedom to implement their own policies to reach those standards Common Core has become a one-size-fits-all program that simply does not make sense for our state.  If other states want to allow the federal government to dictate to them they have every right to make that choice.  But Education is and always has been a primary of states and local government,” Jindal stated during his press conference.

Jindal said the state is no longer committed to implementing the PARCC assessment in the 2014-15 school year, rendering it unable to comply with the terms of the June 2010 Memorandum of Understanding between the State and PARCC. In addition, several changes have occurred since the MOU was signed that make Louisiana’s membership in conflict with Louisiana law.

Jindal said, “It’s time for PARCC to withdraw from Louisiana. We won’t let the federal government take over Louisiana’s education standards. We’re very alarmed about choice and local control over curriculum being taken away from parents and educators.  Common Core has not been fully implemented yet in Louisiana, and we need to start the process over. It was rushed in the beginning and done without public input.

“Additionally, proponents weren’t up front about federal involvement in PARCC and Common Core. Now that we understand the federal overreach involved, we need to slow down and make the right decision. Some Common Core proponents suggest that we cannot have high standards without Common Core.  That is a false statement. We need a Louisiana test that ensures children are performing at high levels so they can compete not only around the country, but around the world. We can certainly have high standards without giving up control of Louisiana’s education system to the federal government,” Jindal added.

Jindal said the MOU does not allow for a competitive bid process for the test, which he states is required under Louisiana law. Additionally, other vendors have entered the market that offer comparable assessments at lower costs and allow greater input from, and accountability to, the states that hire them. The Jindal administration contends that Louisiana law requires the state to choose the lowest cost responsive bidder.

Jindal today issued an executive order that instructs the Louisiana Department of Education to conduct a competitive process to purchase new to purchase a new assessment and which also prohibits the expenditure of funds on cooperative group purchasing organizations and interstate agreements.

Jindal also suspended the rules adopted by the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) at their meeting last month to insure that the Louisiana Department of Education is able to comply with the competitive bid law.  Jindal also instructed the Division of Administration to conduct a comprehensive accounting of all of the state’s expenditures and resources on PARCC, what services or products have been received in return for such expenditures, and copies of all contracts in place or in negotiation for the purchase of an assessment.

Jindal’s office also stated that the Governor issued a request for information to PARCC requesting information about the procurement processes utilized by the consortium, by the Fiscal Agent state, and by the Lead Procurement State to ensure that these processes complied with state law.

His office has also notified the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) of Louisiana’s termination of participation in the Common Core State Standards Initiative.  He also sent a letter to Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester who is the Chair of the PARCC Governing Board outlining steps that he has taken and said that he would “pursue cancellation of this MOU through all means necessary.”

BESE and the Department of Education sparked a constitutional crisis in their reply stating that they will continue to implement the Common Core State Standards, as well as, the PARCC assessment for the 2014-2015 school year. The stated that the Department will deliver and score the grade 3-8 tests using the state’s currently active contract for grade 3-8 testing awarded through the state procurement process.

BESE stated in their written release that regarding the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC tests, state law mandates that “[b]eginning with the 2014-2015 school year, standards-based assessments shall be based on nationally recognized content standards.” State law also mandates that “[t]he rigor of each standard-based test, at a minimum, shall be comparable to national achievement tests” and “student achievement standards shall be set with reference to test scores of the same grade levels nationally.” The plan reaffirmed by BESE and the Department today meets with these legal requirements.

“For years, the law has required that BESE measure literacy and math achievement,” said BESE President Chas Roemer. “Four years ago, our board committed to measuring learning in comparison with states across the country, and two years ago the Legislature put this plan into the law. BESE is continuing to implement that law.”

“By using test forms and questions that make results comparable among states, we are following the Legislature’s mandate that we not only measure but also compete,” State Superintendent John White said.

In response to BESE’s statement Department of Administration Commissioner Kristy Nichols announced that the Office of Contractual Review (OCR) ordered a temporary suspension of approval of the contracts between Data Recognition Corporation and the Department of Education, pending further review by OCR.

Nichols said, “The Department of Education has suggested it has unlimited authority to use a state contract, paid for by taxpayers, for a purpose for which it was not intended. Under Louisiana law, the Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education are prohibited from entering into a contract for the purpose of circumventing the laws governing procurement. For these reasons, we have issued a stay of the services under the contract until the Office of Contractual Review has had an opportunity to review it and obtain more information about how the Department is exercising its authority under the contracts.”

Common Core opposition groups were pleased with today’s announcement.

“Today, the Governor stands alongside the moms, dads, and other citizens of Louisiana who are pushing back against the federal overreach. In so doing, he has reaffirmed the Framers’ intent that state government will guard the rightful interests of the state’s citizens,” said Emmett McGroarty, director of edcuation with American Principles Project. “He has given more hope to the moms, dads and other citizens across America who are pushing back against a $600 billion education industrial complex and the elites in both parties who have been advocating for the national Common Core Standards. Louisiana has begun the process of getting rid of the defective and inferior standards foisted upon it by the federal government. Certainly, as the Governor’s statement today recognizes, much still needs to be done to make things right. But the Governor’s actions and words mark this as a historic day.”

“By rejecting Common Core and PARCC, Governor Jindal has sent a powerful message to the U.S. Department of Education and the D.C.-based education trade groups that his state wants to chart an independent, state-driven, and legal path to higher K-12 academic standards and testing that’s aligned with the consent of parents,” said Jamie Gass, director of the Center for School Reform at Pioneer Institute. “In addition, the governor raises important legal questions about how a private testing consortia like PARCC functions vis-à-vis state bidding and procurement laws.”

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