Common Core advocate says lawsuit likely

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Barry Erwin, president of Council for a Better Louisiana, speaks during Monday’s meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Barry Erwin, president of Council for a Better Louisiana, speaks during Monday’s meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

On the eve of a key meeting, the president of a pro-Common Core group said Monday he thinks legal action will be needed to resolve the battle over tests that go with the new academic standards.

“That is probably the only way out of this situation,” said Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana.

CABL lobbies on education and other issues, and it has been one of the leading state organizations behind the push for new standards in reading, writing and math.

Erwin made his comments to the Press Club of Baton Rouge, one day before the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education holds a special meeting on the latest Common Core flareup.

Erwin said he thinks BESE will initiate action that leads to a lawsuit over who has the authority to select the standardized exams that students in grades three through eight are set to take during the 2014-15 school year.

BESE leaders and state Superintendent of Education John White say the state Department of Education already has a contract with a firm to provide the tests.

Those exams are being prepared by a consortium called the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

But Gov. Bobby Jindal, who wants the state out of Common Core, has ordered tests replaced by new ones through a competitive bidding process.

The Jindal administration has also suspended approval of the contract that White and others want to use to proceed with Common Core.

White backs Common Core, and BESE endorsed it in 2010 and earlier this year.

BESE is set to meet at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

One of the items on the agenda is consideration of the hiring of special legal counsel to review the Jindal executive orders that sparked the standoff.

Most public schools start the next school year in about six weeks.

“This is an issue that we need to resolve and need to resolve very quickly,” Erwin said.

Erwin said the governor’s bid to change test plans was probably the most substantive action of the anti-Common Core steps that he spelled out on June 18.

He said that, while Jindal asked BESE to come up with new academic standards, there is no sign of that happening.

“The governor really has no authority to change the academic standards in the state,” the CABL leader said.

Erwin noted that the Legislature, which finished its three-month session on June 2, repeatedly declined to support bills to revamp or scrap the standards and tests.

Even if BESE prevails in court over who has the authority over tests, he said, more challenges are likely.

“This looks like the never-ending issue,” Erwin said.

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