By Jonathan Kaminsky
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - A group of charter schools, teachers and parents filed suit on Tuesday against Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, asserting that he overstepped his authority and has sown chaos by moving last month to ditch the Common Core education standards for teaching English and math which he helped usher in four years ago.
Jindal's move, which came amid a backlash against the multistate standards aimed at boosting critical-thinking skills and unifying a patchwork of state guidelines, has also created a standoff with the state's top education official.
"The governor is acting beyond the scope of his powers under the state constitution," said Stephen Kupperman, attorney for the plaintiffs. "Ultimately, this is about the kids."
Jindal's effort, which included issuing an executive order scrapping standardized tests set to be used in the coming school year, fell short of unilaterally divorcing the state from the standards.
Louisiana Education Superintendent John White has said the state must use the tests despite the governor's plan.
Jindal, who is widely viewed as holding presidential ambitions, dismissed the lawsuit as without merit and said state officials need to move to find new tests to replace the ones he discarded.
"The Louisiana Department of Education needs to stop delaying, issue an RFP (request for proposal) and follow the law," Jindal said in a statement.
The plaintiffs, who filed their case in state court, have sought an injunction blocking Jindal's order to suspend a contract with the test maker. A preliminary injunction hearing has been set for Aug. 4, said Kupperman.
With Jindal's support, Louisiana was among 45 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that adopted Common Core standards in 2010 amid concerns that U.S. students were falling behind those in other industrialized countries.
But the standards have since come under fire across the political spectrum. Left-leaning groups argue they increase reliance on standardized testing and discourage creativity and flexibility in the classroom. Some conservative groups say they amount to a federal takeover of education.
Although the standards were developed and implemented at the state level, the Obama administration encouraged their adoption through a competitive-grant program called Race to the Top, which gave money to cash-strapped states during the recent economic downturn.
Several Republican-led states have dropped Common Core this year. Indiana became the first state to drop the standards in March, followed by South Carolina in May and Oklahoma in June.
[Image via Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons licensed]