Gov. John Bel Edwards orders state to drop anti-Common Core lawsuit

Gov. John Bel Edwards directed the state Thursday to drop a federal lawsuit challenging Common Core that was pushed by former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Edwards also ordered the termination of a $475,000 state contract to handle the legal challenge held by the law firm of Alexandria attorney Jimmy Faircloth, a former Jindal aide.

The governor, in a prepared statement, said newly enacted federal legislation makes moot issues raised in the lawsuit.

“It does not benefit students to continue to use time and resources to pursue litigation that no longer has any bearing on classrooms in Louisiana,” Edwards said in the statement.

Both Edwards, an attorney, and Jindal are opponents of Common Core, which represents revamped benchmarks for reading, writing and math.

The case was on appeal in the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals after the state lost the first round.

Last September, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick turned down Jindal’s bid for a preliminary injunction to block federal officials from penalizing Louisiana if it quit using Common Core.

Dick said the governor failed to show any such threat existed in legal briefings and during a two-day hearing in May.

The judge issued a final decision on the case in October.

Jindal filed the lawsuit in August 2014 and accused the Obama administration of manipulating $4.3 billion in federal dollars and policy waivers to illegally pressure states to join Common Core.

Federal official said they encouraged states to adopt the standards, but Louisiana’s doing so was voluntary.

Faircloth did not return a call for comment.

Edwards’ order came two days after a state review panel approved changes in about one in five of the standards used in Louisiana.

Those recommendations now go to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for possible action at its March meeting.

Exams students will take in April on what they know about the benchmarks are called LEAP 2016.

While Edwards said he was directing his legal counsel to drop the lawsuit, state Attorney General Jeff Landry, citing the state Constitution, said later in the day he will review the challenge and make the final decision.

“As Louisiana attorney general, I am intervening in this case and I will determine if it will proceed,” Landry said in a prepared statement. “I want to be sure the U. S. Department of Education is not holding our local schools hostage.

“I intend to examine the new law, the lawsuit and the actions of the federal government,” he said.

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

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