Nichols, Roemer disagree on Common Core lawyer request

Kristy Nichols
Kristy Nichols

Sparking new disagreements, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said Thursday she needs more information on the state school board’s request to hire special legal counsel in the battle over Common Core.

In a letter to state Superintendent of Education John White and Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Nichols said “there are some concerns that must be addressed before the contract is approved.”

The request stems from BESE’s bid to hire special legal counsel to challenge the Jindal administration’s suspension of a state testing contract that educators plan to use to see what students know about Common Core.

Jindal says BESE and the state Department of Education violated state procurement rules in contract plans and needs to seek new bids.

White and Roemer disagree, and BESE officials have questioned whether the contract even requires approval from the Jindal administration.

BESE is expected to hold a special meeting next week, the second of its kind in less than a month, to consider whether to press ahead with a legal challenge on the issue.

The legal counsel sought by BESE — Preis Gordon APLC of Baton Rouge — is supposed to provide services to BESE without charge.

But Nichols said in her letter that there are questions about that issue and other details.

In a seven-point written response later in the day, Roemer said the contract is identical to others approved by Nichols’ division, including those that authorized Jimmy Faircloth, who once was Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive counsel, to do legal work.

“If you still believe a meeting is necessary, I would be happy to arrange a meeting with counsel present,” Roemer wrote.

State Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has already approved the contract.

Two lawsuits were filed earlier this week over Common Core, including one that makes some of the same points that BESE, White and others have advanced in challenging the governor’s action.

White told local superintendents Thursday that a court hearing is tentatively set for Aug. 4 on the pro-Common Core lawsuit.

He said state officials will have a plan within two weeks of that date for standardized test for the 2014-15 school year, with or without a state contract.

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