No agreement reached between Jindal and White on student testing
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A face-to-face meeting Thursday between Gov. Bobby Jindal and Education Superintendent John White didn't break an impasse over standardized testing, leaving teachers and students in limbo with fewer than four weeks until public schools open.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education had directed White to seek a compromise with Jindal, in an attempt to keep the disagreement out of court. It was their first sit-down since the governor stalled White's testing contracts to undermine Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards.
After it was over, no resolution had been reached on testing plans for students in third-grade through eighth-grade.
"We're not in a better place from the policy perspective than we were two weeks ago," White said.
White and a majority of board members support Common Core, grade-by-grade benchmarks of what students should learn in English and math that have been adopted by more than 40 states.
Jindal, a one-time Common Core supporter, now opposes the standards as a federal intrusion into local education, echoing criticisms levied by tea party supporters around the country. He suspended the testing contracts to derail plans to purchase Common Core-aligned testing material.
White says the Republican governor overreached his authority and was trying to circumvent education policy set by the board and upheld by state lawmakers. Jindal says the education department didn't follow contracting law and needs to seek competitive bids.
Jindal chief of staff Kyle Plotkin, the only other participant in Thursday's meeting, said the governor talked to White about Louisiana's history of public corruption and the importance of changing that culture, to stress the need for competitively bid contracts.
To sum up the meeting, Jindal issued a two-sentence statement: "I made it clear to Superintendent White that it is important for the Louisiana Department of Education to follow the law. Procurement law is designed to protect taxpayers and it must be followed."
Board leaders offered to solicit new bids for standardized testing services. But new fissures have emerged over who decides what's in the request for bids.
Jindal's Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said the education department would need to accept input from the governor before the request for bids will be issued — and White said that's a stumbling block.
"At this moment I am not hopeful that there is a way of sitting down between BESE and the administration and working out just on the basis of conversation their difference over a simple but important question: Who gets to determine what's on the test?" he said.
The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, a government watchdog group known as PAR, said the dispute has become an education crisis that threatens accountability standards for public schools. The organization blamed Jindal, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid, for the "state-created crisis" by sidestepping the Legislature and BESE.
"Jindal's oscillation on this issue combined with his apparent political calculations are affecting his image as a sincere and reliable leader here in Louisiana," PAR said in a two-page statement.