Pro-Common Core lawsuit filed in BR

One day after Common Core opponents went to court, a group of parents and teachers launched their own lawsuit Tuesday and accused Gov. Bobby Jindal of illegally trying to derail the academic standards and companion tests.

“The governor has effectively thrown a wrench into accountability, putting parents, teachers and students in a position of immediate peril,” Stephen Kupperman, one of the lawyers in the case, said in a prepared statement that accompanied the legal action.

Navis Hill, who lives in New Orleans and is one of the plaintiffs, said the action by the Jindal administration is endangering the educational future of her four children, who will be in the first, fourth, fifth and 10th grades.

“My kids are being sacrificed due to politics,” Hill said in an interview.

Jindal dismissed the challenge. “This lawsuit has no merit,” he said in a prepared statement.

The action was filed in the 19th Judicial District Court, which is in Baton Rouge. The first hearing on it is set for Aug. 4 before Judge Todd Hernandez.

It was filed one day after 17 state lawmakers who oppose Common Core filed their own lawsuit in the same courthouse in a bid to scuttle the academic overhaul.

Common Core is a series of standards in reading, writing and math that students are supposed to learn each year.

The latest challenge contends that the Jindal administration’s action that suspended key state testing contracts is illegal, unconstitutional and should be lifted.

It says the state Constitution gives clear authority to the Legislature and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to set and carry out education policy.

It says Jindal’s executive orders and other actions have illegally interfered with that authority and, in doing so, “created confusion and anxiety among teachers, administrators, school leaders, parents and students.”

Jindal last month ordered the state out of Common Core and the assessments that are supposed to accompany it, starting with the 2014-15 school year.

But state Superintendent of Education John White and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education are fighting the governor’s directive, and BESE may launch a legal challenge of its own.

Courtney Dumas, a fourth-grade teacher at Lowery Elementary School in Ascension Parish and another plaintiff, told reporters that the new academic standards have been in the works for the past four years. “And they are working,” Dumas said.

“Right now is not the time to back out of something that is effective and working,” she said.

“What we are teaching this year, what is being tested this year and what we are teaching is going to prepare students to compete in a global economy,” Dumas said. “Not just a Louisiana economy, a global economy.”

Jimmy Faircloth, a former Jindal aide who will again defend the administration on a key education challenge, said the lawsuit tangles education policy and state procurement law.

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

Faircloth said the lawsuit is “without any real legal basis.”

The plaintiffs are four parents from Orleans Parish, two from East Baton Rouge Parish, one from Jefferson Parish, two teachers and the Choice Foundation, which manages three charter schools in New Orleans.

Defendants include Jindal, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and the interim director of the Office of Contractual Review.

The law firm filing the suit is Barrasso Usdin Kupperman Freeman & Sarver LLC in New Orleans.

How it will be financed is unclear.

“We’re working with a number of Louisiana and national sources who’ve committed to raise funds for us,” said Eric Lewis, Louisiana state director of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, which is assisting in the lawsuit.

“We have verbal commitments in place,” Lewis said in response to questions. “It’s premature at this point to talk about who those folks are, but at some point we will.”

Lewis’ group has been a key ally of Jindal in past education battles, including Louisiana’s statewide voucher program.

He said Common Core remains a worthy goal.

“To change course now after so much teacher, school and student preparation creates an air of uncertainty and confusion,” Lewis said.

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.