Bobby Jindal’s Common Core Lawsuit Is Not About Education. It’s About Getting Bobby Jindal Elected.

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Aug. 28 2014 7:02 PM

Bobby Jindal’s Desperate Move

The governor’s Common Core lawsuit is not about education in Louisiana. It’s just a stunt.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tends to not like things anymore once President Obama starts to like them.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sued the Department of Education and Arne Duncan in federal court Wednesday, claiming they have illegally coerced states into adopting Common Core education standards, which violates the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution as well as federal education law.

Dahlia Lithwick Dahlia Lithwick

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate. Follow her on Twitter.

Armed with the legal argument of “I saw it first,” Jindal seems to be suing on the grounds that he liked Common Core (which sets English and math benchmarks for each grade) before it was cool, and he’s mad that the federal government started liking it too. “The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative,” he said in a statement. “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 to nationalize curriculum.” The Common Core standards began as a bipartisan, state-led effort to create consistent education standards. But now that states are adopting it and Obama supports it, the whole thing is seen as federal overreach.

What is the “scheme” Jindal has uncovered? The Department of Education uses Race to the Top, a generous $4.3 billion grant program, as well as No Child Left Behind waivers to encourage states to adopt the uniform education standards. Jindal’s complaint says that this constitutes illegal federal coercion because it “effectively forces states down a path toward a national curriculum.”

Advertisement

In his complaint filed in federal court, Jindal claims that Duncan impermissibly used grants and waivers to incentivize states to adopt Common Core: Forty-three states participate in Race to the Top, which obligates them, says Jindal, to enter into “binding agreements to adopt and fully implement a single set of federally defined content standards and to utilize assessment products created by a federally sponsored ‘consortia.’ ”

Jindal has a beef with the two consortia associated with Common Core—the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, or SBAC—which he believes are promoting a national curriculum. The testing consortia were awarded $360 million through Race to the Top grants to develop testing materials around the Common Core’s standards, which, again, critics say are less standards than federal guidelines.

The suit echoes the theory that prevailed in the Medicaid expansion section of the 2012 challenge to the Affordable Care Act: that the federal government was “coercing” the states with incentives that—in the language of Chief Justice John Roberts—was tantamount to holding a “gun to the head” of states.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.