Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is attempting to forestall a lawsuit over his attempt to halt Common Core via executive fiat.
The governor’s staff is refusing to approve the state school board’s contract for retaining counsel.
For the past month, Louisiana politics has been consumed by an internal struggle between Jindal and the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).
Jindal wants Louisiana to repeal Common Core education standards and to pull out of a multi-state standardized testing consortium aligned with the standards. BESE, along with state education superintendent John White, supports the standards and maintains that Jindal’s effort to force a withdrawal is unconstitutional.
BESE has been mulling a possible lawsuit for some time. Since both Jindal and BESE would ordinarily be represented in court by the state’s justice department, several weeks ago BESE voted to hire outside counsel to represent them in the event of a possible suit, and a Baton Rouge attorney agreed to represent the body pro bono.
While Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell signed off on the plan, the contract for retaining counsel also must be approved by the governor’s staff, and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols is refusing to approve it.
“The code of ethics prohibits [BESE] from taking an adverse action against the state,” said Nichols in a statement.
It’s the latest twist in one has become a full-blown Louisiana civil war. Chas Roemer, chairman of BESE and like Jindal a Republican, said the governor’s action is a flagrant abuse of power.
“It’s unconstitutional to say you can sue the king, but only with the king’s approval. That’s not the way it works in this country,” Roemer said in a written response to Nichols. He pointed out that both BESE and Gov. Jindal have retained outside counsel more than once in the past.
Jindal was once a supporter of Common Core and helped to implement it in Louisiana. However, in the past year he has turned sharply against it, comparing it to the totalitarian machinations of the Soviet Union. In the spring he urged both the legislature and BESE to act to replace the standards, but when both declined to do so, he decided to take action himself, issuing a set of executive orders that sought to halt Common Core’s implementation.
The centerpiece of the fight is Jindal’s insistence that a contract BESE entered to supply Common Core-aligned standardized tests was arrived at illegally. Jindal has suspended the contract and says BESE must submit a proposal for a new testing contract. Since Jindal would be able to influence the contracting process, he would likely attempt to ensure a non-Common Core standardized test is chosen.
Even if BESE is successfully blocked from suing, there will be plenty of legal battles going on in the Bayou State. A group of legislators is suing BESE in an effort to force the standards’ repeal, while a group of parents along with the Choice Foundation, a charter school group, is suing Jindal over his executive orders.
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