Our Views: A smear from losers

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to derail the new Common Core academic standards continues to get a beating in court, but that isn’t stopping the mudslinging by the governor and his aides, who are smearing their opponents as crooks.

A preliminary injunction from Judge Todd Hernandez in Baton Rouge district court prevents Jindal’s Division of Administration from blocking the purchase of new tests aligned with the Common Core standards.

That ruling came after another 19th District Court judge ruled against legislative opponents of Common Core. The lawmakers had tried and failed to persuade the 2014 Legislature to block the core standards, and their appeal to the judiciary on procedural grounds was rejected.

In both cases, the legal process can be dragged out. The losing lawmakers can take their sour grapes to an appeal; Hernandez’ preliminary injunction will be reassessed in a full trial.

Yet it’s not an encouraging track record for Jindal and the administration’s favored lawyer, Jimmy Faircloth.

The good news in all this is that the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education can continue the transition to Common Core standards begun in 2010, and until recently backed by Jindal as the way to raise, gradually, the achievement levels of Louisiana students.

That the governor and others have taken on a political position against the standards may well be criticized as a flip-flop in some cases, but the slam-on-the-brakes orders issued by Jindal and the Division of Administration against purchasing Core-aligned tests by the state Department of Education were extraordinary steps — particularly given the problems of derailing long-established plans just as the school year is starting.

We think the Common Core standards, developed by the states, are a big step forward for Louisiana, but there is no question that they will be challenging. The politics of the governor’s new position may be questionable. What is worse is his systematic smear campaign against BESE board members and Superintendent John White.

Jindal is directly responsible for the statement by one of his top aides that calls BESE members and White crooks: “It’s not open season on breaking the procurement law,” aide Kyle Plotkin said. “If this judge’s ruling stands, it would cause chaos in state government and bring us back to the old days in Louisiana when it was OK to give no-bid contracts to your friends.”

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols laid it on thicker, saying the state might sanction vendors of the tests, as well as recoup money spent on the tests and test administration.

It takes a lot of nerve for Jindal mouthpieces whose actions have been the cause of so much upheaval in public education to accuse others of promoting “chaos.” But if the superintendent and BESE board members are breaking the law, or giving contracts to friends, the governor and his people have obligations to inform law enforcement. We have seen no evidence that would back up these reckless accusations.

Judges haven’t been buying their arguments. To use this language is a new low for Jindal.