Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, locked in multiple legal battles with his own school board over Common Core education standards, has has made a new, ambitious legal claim.
Common Core, he says, is not merely bad policy, but a violation of federal law. It’s an allegation that could encourage lawsuits against the standards in other states currently implementing the standards.
In a brief submitted Wednesday as part of a lawsuit against Louisiana’s Board for Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), Jindal’s attorneys claim that a consortium used to create multistate standardized tests aligned with Common Core was transformed into a cudgel to force states to obey federal edicts on education.
The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a consortium of more than a dozen states who are working together to create common assessments built around Common Core. Louisiana was an early member of the consortium, and until two months ago was preparing to use PARCC materials for the state’s 2015 standardized tests.
Such plans collapsed into chaos, though, when Jindal issued a set of executive orders declaring that the state’s contract with PARCC violated state law and required the creation of a brand new contract to craft standardized tests, which Jindal said should not be aligned with Common Core. BESE has alleged that Jindal’s actions are illegal, and has vowed to continue forward with Common Core-derived tests while joining a lawsuit against the governor.
“Simply put, PARCC is the implementation platform for a carefully orchestrated federal scheme to supervise, direct and control educational curriculum, programs of instruction and instructional materials in direct violation of federal law,” the report argues.
PARCC’s creation, as well as the creation of the Smarter Balanced consortium (which serves the same purpose but has different members), was enabled through grants by the federal government through the Race to the Top program. That federal involvement, Jindal’s team argues, irretrievably taints the organization as well as Common Core more broadly, even though the government was not directly involved with the standards’ creation. The Department of Education Organization Act (DOEA) and other federal laws, they say, explicitly bar the Department of Education from taking actions that increase federal control over education.
“Race to [the] Top…effectively coopted Common Core for the federal government, attempting to accomplish indirectly through economic coercion that which the federal government is prohibited from accomplishing directly,” the brief argues.
Wednesday’s brief is an effort to obtain a preliminary injunction against using PARCC materials while Jindal’s lawsuit is litigated. Using PARCC materials, the brief says, would cause “irreparable harm created by the unlawful exercise of federal control of education in Louisiana.”
Jindal’s argument is not limited to Louisiana, and if it finds traction in court it could encourage legal challenges to the standards in many other states.
PARCC fired off a statement on Wednesday evening to dispute the Jindal administration’s claims. Calling it a federal organization, it said, was completely untrue, because the organization is completely controlled at the state level.
“The education chiefs in each of the member states comprise the Governing Board of the consortium and make all decisions,” the PARCC statement said. The statement also asserts that the final authority to implement any standards or assessments always lies with state and local authorities.