Lawmakers urge Jindal to drop Common Core test plans

In a new twist to a lengthy debate, 17 state House members sent a letter Friday to Gov. Bobby Jindal that says he has another avenue to kill plans for Common Core testing.

The letter, which was signed by state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, and other critics of the new standards, said Jindal has the authority to ditch the tests under Louisiana’s Administrative Procedures Act.

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education recently approved rules that govern implementation of the tests.

The exams are being done through a consortium called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Those rules took effect May 1, lawmakers said.

The letter says that, under the Administrative Procedures Act, the governor can issue an executive order to suspend or veto any such state agency regulations within 30 days.

“In our view, nothing is lost by exiting PARCC,” according to the letter.

“There are a number of more acceptable, less intrusive assessment options that still help ensure Louisiana students are getting the best, most rigorous education possible,” it says.

State Superintendent of Education John White and BESE President Chas Roemer denounced the letter.

White told reporters that the BESE regulations mirror a 2012 state law. Geymann and his allies are trying an “end run” to prevent the state from purchasing PARCC tests after striking out in their anti-PARCC efforts in the Legislature, he alleged.

White said repeated criticism of the exams is causing problems for teachers, who he said wonder if test plans are on track.

“If these kinds of games continue, it could be months of chaos, a full year of chaos,” he said.

Asked for comment, Jindal said in a prepared statement: “We are looking into whether the option outlined in the letter is a viable option. If the Legislature does not act we could consider this and other options. However, since we are in the midst of the session, we are hopeful that the Legislature will take action to alleviate the concerns of parents with the PARCC test.”

The session ends on June 2, and the tug-of-war over Common Core tests and related topics is expected to be among the most contentious topics.

Common Core includes new standards in reading, writing and math.

Tests developed by the PARCC consortium will measure what students here and in other states know.

The new rules are set to take full effect for the 2014-15 school year.

Earlier, Geymann and other Common Core critics said Jindal has the authority to unilaterally end state involvement with the PARCC tests by notifying officials of the group that the state is withdrawing.

The governor has said he sees that as an option if state lawmakers fail to act before adjournment.

White and Roemer, who back the tests, have said they too would have to agree to any withdrawal for it to take effect.

Other lawmakers who signed the letter include state Reps. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville; Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville; Barry Ivey, R-Central; and J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs.

White noted that legislation to scrap the PARCC test plans failed last month in the House Education Committee 12-7 and that the letter represents just 16 percent of the state House.

Roemer, traditionally a Jindal ally, said the governor is seeking the presidency in part by criticizing President Barack Obama for using his executive powers to get around congressional intent, which he said is what Jindal would be doing if he bowed to the wishes of Geymann and others.

“This is a maneuver outside of the legislative process, the same kind of maneuver that he has attacked President Obama for doing,” Roemer said.