Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thanks, Bobby Jindal!

This from the Fordham Foundation:
It’s too soon to guess TIME Magazine’s person of the year, but a clear favorite has emerged for Common Core person of the year: the man, woman, or group that has done the most to advance the adoption and implementation of Common Core State Standards in the U.S.

Ladies and gentleman, for meritorious service 
to further the cause of rigorous academic standards and educational excellence,
please put your hands together for the governor of the great state of Louisiana, 
Common Core Man of the Year, Bobby Jindal!”
Jindal, as I’m sure you know, is suing the federal government over Common Core. And for this, he deserves enthusiastic cheers and undying gratitude from supporters of the Common Core State Standards. He has thrown into profound jeopardy the most effective talking point that their opponents have: that the feds forced national standards down the states’ throats and that Uncle Sam is illegally dictating what schools will teach. If this were true, any number of states, districts, or other stakeholders would have been in court ages ago. But they haven’t. The blunt fact of the matter is that this is powerful rhetoric atop an extremely weak legal case—like posting a “beware of dog” sign on your home when you own a beagle puppy.

Jindal’s suit alleges that the Department of Education forced adoption of Common Core through its Race to the Top program, which “required” states to “enter binding agreements to adopt and fully implement a single set of federally defined content standards and to utilize assessment products created by a federally sponsored ‘consortia.’”

The truth, of course, is that no state was forced to apply for RTTT funding (Louisiana did, won, and received $17.4 million). Fifteen states, insufficiently intimidated perhaps, skipped one of two main application rounds; four more didn’t apply at all. In all, nineteen states eschewed some part of the program, while a mere eighteen states plus the District of Columbia received RTTT dollars. Moreover, these federal aid-to-state programs, which condition federal subsidies on specific state actions, are legion—numbering a whopping 1,122 in 2010 alone. There is nothing particularly new, novel, or legally adventurous about any of this.

What’s in it for Bobby Jindal is clear enough. His about-face on Common Core has won him attaboys from the tea party, home of some of the most virulent anti-CCSS sentiment. Perhaps you heard that Jindal might be considering a run for the Oval Office in 2016?

But what’s good for Jindal is not good at all for his fellow Common Core opponents. And even they acknowledge that this suit will have little chance in court.

“The chances of prevailing are middling, at best,” blogs the Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey.  “The courts in the past have been pretty lenient in cases in which Washington gets states to do its bidding in exchange for funding when the feds don’t have authority in the Constitution to do something.” McCluskey notes that the Jindal suit hinges largely on federal action “that doesn’t state outright that the Core must be adopted.”

Writing at The Federalist, Joy Pullman says “it’s about time someone with power and cojones took a stand,” while offering no opinion whatsoever on the likely outcome—but of course taking the opportunity to note yet again (cue the applause) that “federal laws explicitly prohibit the national government from directing, supervising, or controlling curriculum and instruction.”

Common Core, of course, does none of that. It doesn’t direct, supervise, or control anything, nor does the federal government direct, supervise, or control it. And about the last thing Common Core opponents should be seeking right now is a court decision saying so.

A mere 15 percent of Americans polled in the recent PDK/Gallup survey believe that “the federal government should have the greatest influence on what schools teach.” Nearly twice as many say it should be the states; nearly four times that number say it should be their local school board. That’s a rout. When the court decides, as it almost certainly has to that, no, in fact, no one forced Louisiana or any other state to adopt Common Core, the most effective anti-Common Core argument goes, “Poof!”

Common Core has been taking a beating in the court of public opinion.  So why overplay your hand and take it to an actual, real court? I have no idea.

Ask Bobby Jindal, the 2014 Common Core Man of the Year.
  This from the Times Picyeune:

No good reason for Gov. Jindal to be in court on Common Core: Editorial

Gov. Bobby Jindal is willing to spend $275,000 of Louisiana taxpayers' money -- maybe more -- to try to keep students here from being compared academically to children in other states. He is wasting the public's money. His fight against Common Core academic standards is irresponsible and unlikely to prevail.

Bobby Jindal Ames IA 2014
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (AP/Charlie Neibergall)
A state judge has already ruled against him. Even so, he filed a lawsuit Aug. 27 against the Obama administration -- which didn't create Common Core but is providing some funding for it.

Ironically, Gov. Jindal's office claims that the legal fees could be saved if only the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education would agree to ditch Common Core.

BESE is right to stick with the new standards and the multi-state test that is aligned with them. Louisiana should set high expectations for students and prepare young people to compete for good jobs and colleges.

It is BESE that has the authority under the Louisiana Constitution to set education policy and carry it out. Gov. Jindal is the one who is interfering. BESE is just trying to defend itself.

The governor's office even fought the school board's contract with a lawyer who agreed to take the case for free. Meanwhile, the governor is paying his buddy Jimmy Faircloth and other lawyers on his team $225 per hour to represent him in state and federal court in the Common Core fight.

Mr. Faircloth's take could be as much as $75,000 for the state court case and $50,000 for the federal case.

That would add to the sizable amount of public money that has already gone to Mr. Faircloth, who is Gov. Jindal's former executive counsel. The Associated Press reported last year that he had received $1.1 million in no-bid legal work from state government. It sure is nice to be the favored lawyer for a litigious governor.

In addition to Mr. Faircloth, the Jindal administration has hired Baton Rouge lawyer Greg Murphy and the Long Law Firm to handle the Common Core dispute. Those two contracts could run as much as $75,000 each.

"These [legal] costs are minuscule compared to the millions of dollars we could save if  [education department and state school board] followed the law and followed the state procurement process. Quality, lower cost tests are available," a spokeswoman for the governor said.

That is an absurd argument. Gov. Jindal's concern isn't getting a cheaper test. He just wants to stop BESE and school Superintendent John White from buying the test developed by multiple states to align with the Common Core standards.

The governor is putting at risk millions of dollars the state and school systems have already spent on developing and implementing Common Core -- which he used to support.

Gov. Jindal signed the memorandum of understanding in 2010 for Louisiana to take part in creating the Common Core academic standards in English and math and a multistate test to measure student achievement.

His administration pushed in 2012 for legislation to strengthen the state's commitment to the new standards. And the state tried multiple times to get in on federal Race to the Top money to help pay for education reforms in Louisiana.

Now Gov. Jindal claims the Obama administration is interfering with the state's authority over education. According to the governor's lawsuit:  "Louisiana now finds itself trapped in a federal scheme to nationalize curriculum. What started as good state intentions has materialized into the federalization of education policy through federal economic incentives and duress."

That sounds downright nutty.

Common Core grew out of an initiative by the National Governor's Association. Louisiana teachers and education officials worked with representatives from other states to create the standards and test questions.

Gov. Jindal was in full support of that effort until some conservative political groups that he needs to further his national ambitions started fighting Common Core.

With the Legislature, BESE and Mr. White sticking with Common Core, the governor set out to undo the standards on his own.

That hasn't gone well. Baton Rouge District Judge Todd Hernandez ruled Aug. 19 that the governor's executive order forbidding Louisiana's Department of Education to buy new student tests was improper and harmful to families and schools. His ruling freed the Department of Education to purchase the new tests, which Mr. White said would happen immediately.

So, Gov. Jindal decided to see if he could do better in federal court. That's doubtful.

Unfortunately for Louisiana residents, he is going to spend a lot of their money to be told "no" by another judge.

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