Roemer blames Jindal for Common Core 'fiasco'

The president of Louisiana’s top School Board said Monday that the Common Core debate has turned into a “fiasco” and Gov. Bobby Jindal is solely to blame.

“The fiasco we are going through right now is a fiasco caused by one person,” Chas Roemer, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said of the governor.

Asked if Jindal’s stance stems strictly from political ambitions, Roemer said he thinks it is “very clear that the governor spends more time worried about his national politics than the state.

“I have no other explanation,” he said of the governor’s anti-Common Core views.

In a prepared statement, Jindal reiterated his view that Roemer and state Superintendent of Education John White should “follow the law” and issue a request for proposals to come up with new tests.

“There’s no excuse for delay tactics,” the governor said. “The law is the law, and they both need to follow the law.”

Roemer, a former ally of the governor, made his comments during a 45-minute appearance before the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

While the BESE president has criticized Jindal previously, his comments on Monday were some of his most pointed during months of debate over the academic overhaul.

Jindal, who once backed the education overhaul, announced in June that he wants the state out of Common Core and its assessments.

Roemer backs the new standards and the exams, and BESE voted 6-4 last week to intervene in a pro-Common Core lawsuit in the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge.

The key issue is how standardized tests for the 2014-15 school year will be drawn up.

Jindal said he wants BESE and the state Department of Education to come up with new exams.

Roemer said the state constitution clearly gives test-setting authority to the board and the Legislature and that plans are already in place to quiz students and compare them to those in other states.

“Now we don’t live in a state where one man can overrule the constitution,” he said. “The procurement office was not meant to determine education policy in this state.”

Hearings are set in the pro-Common Core lawsuit for Aug. 12 and Aug. 18, including a bid to lift the Jindal administration’s suspension of the tests that state educators planned to use.

The first hearing on an anti-Common Core lawsuit filed by 17 state lawmakers is scheduled for Aug. 15.

Roemer, a seven-year veteran of BESE, said Common Core also makes sense in a state that has long suffered from low education expectations.

“The biggest cancer in our state is low expectations,” he said, which he called a recurring theme in public schools he has visited in danger of state takeovers because of poor academic performance.

“What is Common Core? Common Core is high standards. Common Core is a message to the rest of the nation and the rest of the world that Louisiana is ready to compete.”

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