Inside Report: Common Core has Gov. Jindal flying solo

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s opposition to Common Core has put him on sort of a political island in Louisiana.

But it also means that he is in line with nearly every Republican listed as a 2016 presidential possibility, which critics say is the dominant driver in Jindal’s stance.

The latest twist in the controversy — U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s thundering endorsement of Common Core — points up the governor’s isolation on the issue in the state.

Suddenly, the fellow Republican and 2015 gubernatorial contender, and one of President Barack Obama’s harshest critics, was praising Common Core and undercutting arguments that it is really “Obama Core.”

Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who is considered more moderate than Vitter on the political spectrum, said he backs the overhaul.

And state Rep. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who also hopes to succeed Jindal, did the same.

That means three politicians who agree on little all back Common Core.

And all three also are aligned with the formerly pro-Jindal state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Jindal’s handpicked state Superintendent of Education John White, most of the GOP-dominated Louisiana Legislature and much of the state’s business community.

They all back the standards.

“He is out there totally by himself,” said Pearson Cross, who heads the political science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Common Core includes new academic goals in reading, writing and math, and what students should know yearly.

The overhaul takes full effect for the 2014-15 school year even while fighting continues over how students will be tested.

After months of arguments, Jindal is now aligned with a smattering of state lawmakers, including 17 who filed a lawsuit aimed at derailing Common Core.

He also is in line with an assortment of angry parents who have held rallies and testified tearfully at legislative hearings and at BESE, without having much impact on any votes.

Without Jindal, there is no Common Core debate in Louisiana.

However, the governor announced in June that he wants the state out of Common Core and its assessments.

That has sparked multiple lawsuits, two special meetings of BESE and a seemingly endless round of dueling news conferences.

That, in turn, also has put him right in the mainstream of possible GOP candidates for president in 2016.

“Over the last 12 months nationally, Republicans have made Common Core another plank or example of Obama’s federal intrusion into the life and business of states,” said Joshua Stockley, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Louisiana at Monroe who is often critical of Jindal.

“That anti-Obama messaging and that anti-Obama speech is resonating among diehard conservatives nationally,” Stockley said.

Of eight Republicans considered presidential possibilities, only former Gov. Jeb Bush wholeheartedly backs Common Core.

Opponents of the standards include U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida; U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas; former presidential contender Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania; U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky; Texas Gov. Rick Perry; and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently called for a commission to study the issue in his state and offer a report on it in 2015.

Cross said Jindal’s choice is obvious.

“It just shows how clearly Jindal’s motivations are taken from a kind of national profile, national issues,” he said.

Jindal has waved away suggestions that his Common Core stance stems from national political ambitions.

He said it is vital that politicians listen to parents and educators who have criticized the standards.

Yet, Jindal’s anti-Common Core stance has put him at odds with longtime allies in his push to overhaul public schools, and even former top aides.

“I guess he has calculated that the cost is worth it,” Cross said.

Will Sentell covers state education issues for The Advocate Capitol news bureau. His email address is wsentell@theadvocate.com.