BESE to hold another special meeting on Tuesday

The state’s top school board will hold its second special meeting in less than a month Tuesday in the battle over Common Core.

The session, which is likely to be acrimonious, is scheduled to start at 11 a.m.

The key issue is whether and how the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will proceed on a possible legal challenge over tests that are supposed to accompany the new academic standards.

One possibility is for BESE to join a pro-Common Core lawsuit filed last week by parents and teachers.

In its last special meeting, BESE voted on July 1 to hire special legal counsel — without charge to the state — to consider a legal challenge of the Jindal administration’s suspension of state testing contracts.

The firm is Preis Gordon APLC in Baton Rouge.

The education panel submitted its request to state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, who approved.

The status of the issue is now in dispute.

BESE President Chas Roemer and state Superintendent of Education John White said the request has been rejected by Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols.

Nichols said in a prepared statement Monday that officials in her office “still have several questions about the legal contract that need to be resolved.

“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Roemer and Superintendent White declined to meet,” Nichols said.

What it means is that, even if BESE votes Tuesday to press ahead with legal action, that too could spark a court challenge from the Jindal administration.

BESE is set to hold a regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 12-13.

However, most public schools statewide start before then, and BESE leaders say they are concerned about the lack of any standardized test plans for the 2014-15 school year.

Common Core represents new standards that students are supposed to know, year by year, in reading, writing and math.

Gov. Bobby Jindal wants Louisiana out of the overhaul, the tests scrapped and new academic goals hammered out strictly for Louisiana students.

BESE and White back Common Core and its assessments, which are being developed by a consortium called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.

Two lawsuits were filed on the issue last week.

One is accusing Jindal of illegally trying to derail the standards and contends the governor has “thrown a wrench” into the state’s public school accountability system.

A hearing is set for Aug. 4.

Roemer said Monday that one possibility is for the panel to join the legal challenge as an intervenor, especially since part of the argument will focus on the board’s authority.

Another lawsuit was filed by 17 state lawmakers to halt implementation of Common Core.

That challenge alleges BESE and the state Department of Education failed to follow the Administrative Procedures Act when the standards were adopted, which they say is a required step and would have allowed vital public input.

Jindal’s allies on BESE say the 11-member panel should heed the governor’s directive and seek proposals for new tests.

White told local superintendents last week that he will have a plan for standardized tests within two weeks of the Aug. 4 court hearing.

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