Jul 16, 2014 8:02 PM by Associated Press
The leaders of Louisiana's top school board offered a new compromise proposal Wednesday to Gov. Bobby Jindal in the ongoing disagreement over Common Core education standards.
The officers of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education agreed to have the Department of Education solicit new bids for standardized testing services in public schools, though they said that testing would have to align with "nationally recognized standards."
They called it their final offer ahead of a Thursday meeting between the Republican governor and Education Superintendent John White over how to handle testing in the upcoming school year.
"With fewer than four weeks left until the school year starts, our schools, educators and families need guidance from the state as to the nature of state tests," said the letter signed by board President Chas Roemer, Vice-President Jim Garvey and Secretary Holly Boffy.
Jindal suspended the existing testing contract in order to undermine use of tests tied to Common Core, which the governor opposes.
White and Roemer, who support the multi-state education standards, say the governor overreached his authority and is trying to circumvent education policy set by BESE and upheld by state lawmakers. Jindal said the education department didn't follow state contracting law and needs to seek competitive bids.
With BESE leaders now offering a competitive bid process, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said she believed there's room for compromise.
"I think it is a viable proposal," she said.
But Nichols also said the education department would need to accept input from the governor before the request for bids will be issued.
"Certainly, the governor's office is going to want to participate in the policy aspects of the (request for proposals)," she said.
That raises questions about whether the impasse can be broken and a new contract completed in time to administer spring standardized tests to students in third-grade through eighth-grade.
The Common Core standards are grade-by-grade benchmarks of what students should learn in English and math that have been adopted by more than 40 states. Supporters say the standards promote critical thinking. Jindal says the federal government is trying to use them to control local educational systems.
As part of the continuing dispute, the Jindal administration Wednesday released preliminary findings of a review it launched into the Department of Education's testing contracts, saying the department appears to have repeatedly sidestepped procurement law.
The allegations involve contracts and amendments that go back over 11 years, covering four superintendents and three education board terms, and that earlier were approved by the governor's contractual review office.
In a statement, Jindal chief of staff Kyle Plotkin said the findings show "systemic issues that fostered this laissez faire approach to public contracting."
White said the education department followed the law.
"It is curious that they would take a sudden interest in these purported inconsistencies now, years after they happened, amid a debate about testing and education policy," White said. "These are contracts and amendments that they stood behind way back when."