August 28, 2014 10:44:23 AM
BATON ROUGE, La. -- In a move certain to bolster his national standing with conservatives, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal sued the Obama administration Wednesday, hoping to strike a blow against the controversial Common Core education standards and raising his profile as he builds a likely presidential campaign.
Jindal's lawsuit accuses the Department of Education of illegally manipulating federal money and regulations to force states to adopt Common Core by dangling $4.3 billion in grants and policy waivers that encouraged them to adopt uniform standards and testing.
"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."
While even supporters of the lawsuit question its likelihood for success, the legal challenge represents a new attack on the multistate standards, with Jindal at the forefront of the dispute between conservatives and President Barack Obama.
And the lawsuit comes as opposition to Common Core grows nationally, particularly with Republicans.
The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks describing what students should know after completing each grade. They were developed by states to allow comparison of students' performance. More than 40 states, including Louisiana, have adopted them.
A PDK/Gallup Poll released Aug. 20 found 60 percent of those surveyed don't support the standards. Among Republicans, opposition was 76 percent.
Jindal's lawsuit says the federal education department's policy "effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum" in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal laws that prohibit national control of education content.
The lawsuit, obtained first by The Associated Press, was filed in the federal court based in Baton Rouge.
Praise quickly poured in for the legal challenge from conservative groups.
"Gov. Jindal is defending the liberties of citizens and the constitutional structure intended to protect those liberties," Emmett McGroarty, education director of the Washington-based American Principles Project, said in a statement.
When the Louisiana education board embraced the standards in 2010, Jindal supported them, saying they would help students prepare for college and careers. He reversed course earlier this year, calling the standards an effort by the Obama administration to meddle in state education policy.
The governor's change of heart is not shared by state lawmakers, the education board or his hand-picked education superintendent. They refuse to jettison Common Core from Louisiana's classrooms. Jindal tried to derail use of the standards by suspending testing contracts, but a state judge lifted that suspension.
Turning to federal court represents a new tactic, and Common Core supporters quickly accused the governor of playing politics in court.
"This certainly looks like a frivolous lawsuit that's geared more toward publicity than substance," said Barry Erwin, president of the Council for A Better Louisiana.
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