Possible legal action on revised BESE agenda

Louisiana’s top School Board next week will consider the hiring of special legal counsel in its bid to press ahead with Common Core test plans, according to a revised agenda issued on Friday.

The issue could be the first step in a nationally watched battle between Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has ordered the tests stopped, against a formerly pro-Jindal state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and a superintendent whom the governor pushed for the job.

On June 18, Jindal issued an executive order aimed at shelving Common Core exams being prepared by a consortium called the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

He also ordered BESE and the state Department of Education to launch a competitive bid process to come up with new assessments.

A new item added to Tuesday’s BESE agenda calls for “consideration of the potential retention of special legal counsel” regarding that and other, related orders by the governor.

What, if any, steps BESE plans to take if a special attorney is hired is unclear.

Jindal has vowed to get rid of Common Core and its tests and wants the state to come up with new academic standards prepared by state officials.

Chas Roemer, president of BESE, and state Superintendent of Education John White both back Common Core and the tests that go with it.

Whether next week’s special meeting of the state’s top School Board will include a closed-door session is unclear, Roemer said Friday.

“There may or may not be the need for executive session,” he said in a message to colleagues.

“I anticipate there may be given potential legal questions and that is why the executive session must be on the agenda.”

The special meeting is set for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

BESE has twice endorsed the new standards, which spell out what students should know yearly about reading, writing and math.

Roemer, who lives in Baton Rouge, said the meeting will also include public comment.

The gathering is expected to be divisive.

Jindal allies on the board want to start the process of finding new tests.

However, there is no such item on the revised agenda despite complaints from Lottie Beebe, a BESE member who lives in Breaux Bridge.

The Jindal administration has suspended state approval of a contract between the state Department of Education and a testing firm that White and others planned to use to proceed with Common Core exams.

In another sign of tensions, Jindal’s team has also demanded a wide range of test-related documents from White’s department by Monday.

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