BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Thursday that he is ending Louisiana’s lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s administration over the Common Core education standards.
Edwards’ predecessor, Republican Bobby Jindal, filed the federal lawsuit in 2014, as he was readying his failed bid for the GOP presidential nomination and as the multistate math and English standards drew increasing ire from conservatives.
Jindal lost the first round of the litigation. Edwards’ office said the Democratic governor won’t continue with an appeal, instead directing his executive counsel to drop the lawsuit and scrap the contract for the outside lawyer handling the case.
Jindal accused President Barack Obama’s administration of manipulating billions in federal grant money and policy waivers to illegally pressure states to adopt the Common Core standards and associated testing.
But a judge ruled Jindal offered no evidence to support the claim.
Edwards’ office said a recently signed federal law barring the government from mandating standards, combined with Louisiana’s work to rewrite its public school standards, makes the lawsuit “educationally and financially unnecessary.”
“It does not benefit students to continue to use time and resources to pursue litigation that no longer has any bearing on classrooms in Louisiana,” Edwards said in a statement.
“Instead, we need to focus on doing everything possible to provide students and teachers with the support they need to ensure a quality educational system.”
The lawsuit cost Louisiana thousands of dollars. Jindal’s contract lawyer, Jimmy Faircloth, was paid at least $450,000 to represent Louisiana on the case, according to Edwards’ office.
After Edwards’ announcement, Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry suggested he might try to keep the appeal alive. Landry said he will look into the details of the case before deciding.
The Common Core standards are math and English benchmarks adopted by more than 40 states to describe what students should know after completing each grade. Like Jindal, Edwards opposes Common Core.
In his lawsuit, Jindal claimed the U.S. Department of Education’s actions forced states to move toward a national education curriculum in violation of the state sovereignty clause in the Constitution and federal law. The Obama administration responded that while it encouraged states to use the standards, Louisiana’s decision to adopt Common Core was voluntary.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick rejected Jindal’s allegations against the Obama administration in September, saying Jindal didn’t prove Louisiana was improperly coerced.
Faircloth began work on a challenge of Dick’s decision to a New Orleans-based appeals court.
But federal legislation later approved by Obama appeared to make the lawsuit moot.
In December, Obama signed an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind education law that says the federal government can’t mandate or give states incentives to adopt or maintain any particular set of academic standards.
Meanwhile, Louisiana is rewriting its math and English standards under a review process required by state lawmakers. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will consider the reworked standards in March.
Edwards suggested Jindal’s lawsuit was unnecessary spending in a state struggling with budget problems.
“My administration will not continue the practice of wasting taxpayer money on lawyers and lawsuits that instead could be much better used in the classroom,” Edwards said.