Dennis Persica: The adults acting like children

It takes a spreadsheet.

Or maybe a flow chart. You definitely need some kind of memory aid to keep track of all of the recent twists and turns in the Louisiana education debate.

To review:

Last week, 17 state legislators filed suit to block implementation of the Common Core State Standards that have been a source of controversy for the past year.

That same week, a group of Common Core supporters also filed suit. This one is against Gov. Bobby Jindal, the state’s Division of Administration and a couple of officials in that division.

On Tuesday, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to join that same suit, and Jindal fired back by announcing he was filing a suit of his own.

The pro-Common Core suit is a challenge to an earlier executive order by Jindal, which in turn challenged the authority of the state Department of Education to purchase Common Core materials from Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Well, that’s kind of awkward, since PARCC claims Louisiana as one of the 13 states that — along with the District of Columbia — make up the consortium, which is designing assessment material aligned with Common Core. State Education Superintendent John White serves on PARCC’s governing board.

Meanwhile, Jindal also wrote letters removing Louisiana from Common Core. That and his executive order come after the Legislature declined this year to take any action that would have done the same thing.

On top of all that, some, including Jane Smith, Jindal’s most recent BESE appointee, have claimed potential ethics violations by White, which he strenuously denies.

So, to recap: Louisiana agreed in 2010 to adopt Common Core, and the state is part of a consortium devising student assessment methods aligned with Core standards. The Legislature has not opted out of Common Core, but the governor says that for the Education Department to purchase tests from the consortium is contrary to state law, which requires a “transparent, competitive process.”

White says the consortium doesn’t sell tests anyway.

“PARCC is not a testing services vendor and would not bid on any request for proposal for comprehensive testing contracts,” White wrote to BESE members. If White is correct, you have to wonder what Jindal meant when he said in his executive order that the state Department of Education and BESE “committed to purchase PARCC’s assessment product” and that they didn’t give “due consideration to comparable assessment products.”

Also, it’s not clear where “comparable assessment products” would come from, since only two consortia are authorized by the federal government to develop them for Common Core. The other one, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, is made up of 21 states. Until it’s determined that it was legal for Jindal to pull Louisiana out of Common Core, either PARCC or Smarter Balanced would have to be the source of the assessments.

In the end, Jindal’s order muddles an already confused situation.

The pro-Common Core lawsuit claims that Jindal and other state officials “have violated the Louisiana Constitution and have sown chaos in the education system of this state.”

It will take a court to decide if they violated the constitution, but it’s obvious that the state’s education system is in chaos and far from the “clarity” that White promised teachers just a couple of months ago. No matter where you stand in the Common Core debate, it’s clear that this is an untenable situation that needs to be remedied quickly.

You’d think that all of the adults in the room could figure out a solution without the rancor and the drama. After all, there are children watching.

Dennis Persica’s email address is dpersica@theadvocate.com.