House members urge Jindal to drop Common Core tests

Gov. Bobby Jindal said Monday that a gubernatorial order for the state to drop controversial Common Core tests is a “very viable option” if state lawmakers fail to act.

Jindal made the comment in response to a letter from eight House members who said the governor can opt the state out of the exams and should do that.

The testing consortium is the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career.

“We believe you have the authority, as governor, under the 2010 PARCC memorandum of understanding, to opt out of the consortium,” state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, and seven other legislators wrote.

Students in grades three to eight are scheduled to start taking PARCC exams in reading, writing and math in spring 2015.

However, Jindal has repeatedly criticized “one size fits all” tests.

He also backed bills earlier this month by Geymann and state Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, to scrap the new academic standards and to shelve PARCC.

Both measures failed in the House Education Committee.

Geymann reignited the issue last week when he grilled state Superintendent of Education John White about the state’s memorandum of understanding on PARCC and how Louisiana could bow out.

White, who has been at odds with Jindal on Common Core issues, said April 8 that pulling out of the test would require the approval of the governor, White and Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Lawmakers disagreed.

“What we have discovered is that, in short, the MOU is fatally defective,” the letter signed by Geymann and the others says.

“It is incomplete, vague and missing key elements of a legally binding agreement,” the lawmakers wrote.

They also said participation in PARCC is subject to the availability of funds, and the state is facing a $940 million shortfall for the financial year that begins July 1, 2015.

In his statement, Jindal said, “We’re hopeful that legislation will move through the process this session that will address the concerns of parents or delay implementation until those concerns can be addressed.

“We think this course of action outlined in the legislators’ letter remains a very viable option if the Legislature does not act,” the statement said.

Common Core has been adopted by 43 states. Louisiana is one of 17 states and the District of Columbia that are part of the PARCC consortium. Backers say the tests are superior to the traditional bubble exams.

Geymann said Monday that officials in Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office said they could not prepare an opinion on issues surrounding any withdrawal from PARCC because there is pending legislation on the issue.

Opponents say PARCC is part of the overreach of Common Core, which they say represents federal interference in local school issues.

Aside from Geymann and Henry, those signing the letter are state Reps. Jim Morris, R-Oil City; Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville; Dee Richard, No Party-Thibodaux; J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs; Barry Ivey, R-Central; and Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville.