Jindal blasts Common Core

Stepping up his criticism, Gov. Bobby Jindal on Wednesday compared Common Core to centralized planning in Russia and predicted the national drive to overhaul academic standards will fail.

“The feds are taking over and rushing this,” Jindal said in a prepared statement released late Wednesday.

“Let’s face it: centralized planning didn’t work in Russia, it’s not working with our health care system and it won’t work in education,” the governor said. “Education is best left to local control.”

The statement represents the latest, and perhaps most pointed, comments that Jindal has made about Common Core, which represents new standards in reading, writing and math.

Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the governor’s comments are off target.

“This is about presidential politics,” Roemer said, a reference to Jindal’s possible bid for president in 2016. Roemer is a longtime GOP ally of Jindal’s.

Louisiana adopted the standards in 2010, and the changes are supposed to take full effect for the 2014-15 school year.

However, the issue has been a recurring topic during the three-month legislative session, including repeated but failed efforts to shelve or rewrite the standards and scrap test plans.

Shortly before Jindal’s office released the letter 33 state House members sent another letter to Jindal aimed at derailing the tests scheduled to go along with Common Core.

The lawmakers said they believe the governor has the authority to do so by issuing an executive order or by vetoing test plans approved earlier by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The exams under fire are being developed by a consortium that Louisiana and 16 other states plan to use called the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career.

“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,” the letter says.

The latest message was signed by state Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, both top critics of Common Core, and 31 other House members.

Jindal said last week that he may act on the issue if lawmakers fail to do so by the legislative session’s June 2 adjournment.

Whether the governor can unilaterally remove Louisiana from the tests has sparked a rift with both Roemer and state Superintendent of Education John White, who was Jindal’s pick for the top public schools job.

White and Roemer contend that they too, not just Jindal, have to agree for the state to drop out of the PARCC test plans.

Neither White nor Roemer favors that move.

White said the letter by Geymann, Henry and others is riddled with errors, and that the Florida plan they cited will result in PARCC substitute tests that cost $34.25 per student compared to $24 per child in Louisiana.

White and Roemer also disputed the governor’s written comment that Common Core is being driven by federal officials, which is a rallying cry of opponents.

Roemer said the letter by lawmakers is one of numerous maneuvers he expects in the final 11 days of the legislative session to undercut Common Core.

“I think they will try to amend bills at the last second,” he said.

White disputed arguments by lawmakers that Jindal has two ways to solely scrap the Common Core test plans.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.the advocate.com/politicsblog/