Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of his state on Wednesday against the U.S. Department of Education, claiming that it has illegally used the promise of grant money and other federal regulations forcing states to adopt the controversial Common Core state standards.
Common Core standards is a national education initiative that lays out what students kindergarten through 12th grade should know at the end of each grade to "ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life." The plan is sponsored by the National Governors Association, a private entity and not, technically, sponsored by the federal government.
Jindal argues that the efforts of the Education Department to "force" states to adopt the Common Core violates the 10th Amendment which states that all powers not given to the federal government by the constitution are passed on to the states. Specifically, The General Education Provisions Act of 1965, does not allow for the federal government to institute a nationally centralized curriculum.
"The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative," Jindal said in a statement. "Common Core is the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C. in control of everything."
The Obama administration's "Race to the Top competition" incentivized state adoption of the Common Core standards by holding the Department of Education's $4.3 billion grant program at ransom to states in order to get them to adopt the set of standards. Jindal claims this competition has taken the choice of curriculum away from the states. Forty-six states initially adopted the common core, meaning that 80 percent of the nation's children were subject to such curriculum.
"What started out as an innovative idea to create a set of base-line standards that could be 'voluntarily' used by the states has turned into a scheme by the federal government nationalize the curriculum," Jindal also said in a statement.
The lawsuit comes in the aftermath of a Louisiana judge disallowing Jindal's suspension of contracts the state's education department wanted to use to buy testing material for the Common Core last Tuesday.
Jindal's lawsuit states: "Defendants have constructed a scheme that effectively forces States down a path toward a national curriculum by requiring, as a condition of funding under the President's Race to the Top programs, that States join 'consortia of states' and agree to adopt a common set of content standards and to implement the assessment protocols and policies created by that consortium, all under the direction of the United States Department of Education."
Although Jindal's claims appear valid on paper, members within the Louisiana Department of Education are not optimistic about Jindal winning this lawsuit.
Chas Roemer, president of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, told The New Orleans Times Picayune that the state's board of education will continue using Common Core tests for math and English because he is confident the governor's lawsuit will not amount to much.
"I think it's silly," Roemer said.
Many perceive Jindal's legal action to be politically motivated as he is expected to be a strong Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election. Common Core has become a big election issue among conservatives who view taking a strong stance against Common Core as a way to stand against an overreaching federal government.
"And it's unlikely he'll get anything out of this suit other than padding his conservative credentials, which be the whole point," Anne Hyslop, a senior policy analyst for Bellwether Education Partners, told Politico.
Public support for Common Core standards has diminished in recent years , according to a poll released by Gallup and the Phi Delta Kappa educators' organization. The poll found that 70 percent of Americans gave President Obama either a "C", "D" or "F" grade on his support of public schools. Additionally, the poll found that more Americans trust their own local school board when it comes to education policy than they do the federal government.
With low public support for Common Core, it is in Republican candidates' interest to take a strong stance on the issue, Emmett McGroarty, education director at the American Principles Project, told Fox News in June.
"Common Core has become a flashpoint election issue," McGroarty said. "Voters are increasingly realizing that the Common Core is of poor quality and locks children into an inferior education."