Judge allows Common Core lawsuit to proceed, does not order Gov. Jindal deposition

La. Gov. Bobby Jindal; state Supt. of Education John White; BESE President Chas Roemer
La. Gov. Bobby Jindal; state Supt. of Education John White; BESE President Chas Roemer

Common Core crossed its first of many legal hurdles in Louisiana on Wednesday when a judge said a lawsuit challenging Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to order the state away from the hotly contested academic standards and companion tests can go forward.

But state District Judge Todd Hernandez said attorneys for the group of parents and teachers who filed the suit last month cannot question the governor under oath in a deposition.

Now, the pro-Common Core suit will be the focus of a full-blown hearing Monday. Hernandez is being asked to lift the Jindal administration’s suspension of state test contracts that Common Core advocates plan to rely on.

“I am pleased with the ruling on the exceptions and disappointed with the ruling on the depositions,” Stephen Kupperman, an attorney for the suit’s plaintiffs, said in an email. “But the Court has spoken. I look forward to the hearing on Monday.”

One of the exceptions that the defense raised at a hearing Tuesday, and which Hernandez rejected Wednesday, alleged that the group of parents and teachers had no legal standing to challenge Jindal’s decision.

Jimmy Faircloth, who represents the governor in the case, said he also eagerly awaits Monday’s hearing.

“I just don’t think there’s any chance they can prevail,” he said of the plaintiffs, which also include the Choice Foundation, which manages three charter schools in New Orleans.

The suit’s defendants are Jindal, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and the interim director of the Office of Contractual Review.

Jindal filed court papers in the suit last week urging Hernandez to prohibit Louisiana education officials from using Common Core tests in the state’s public schools.

On Friday, state District Judge Tim Kelley will hold a hearing in an anti-Common Core challenge filed by 17 state lawmakers.

Common Core is a series of standards in reading, writing and math that students are supposed to learn each year. The key dispute is what standardized tests will be given to students in the spring.

In June, Jindal ordered the state out of Common Core and the assessments that are supposed to accompany it, starting with the 2014-15 school year. Key state testing contracts have been suspended.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and state Superintendent of Education John White contend the choice of exams is up to BESE. Jindal and his allies are trying to derail BESE’s plans to use tests aligned to Common Core and crafted by a federally funded consortium of states.

BESE intervened in the suit pending before Hernandez.

Jindal contends BESE and the state Department of Education failed to follow state procurement law in planning for the Common Core test contract.

Supporters say 45 states have adopted Common Core and that the new rules are needed to improve student achievement, especially in low-performing states like Louisiana. Critics argue the standards are top heavy with federal influence, drive the curriculum and often include inappropriate materials.

School board members, teachers and others say Common Core academic goals are well in place in Louisiana after four years of planning.