Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, and John White, Louisiana’s education commissioner, were once a great school reform pair — seemingly inseparable. Times have changed.
In early 2011, Jindal tapped White, then the superintendent of the Recovery School District in New Orleans, to become education chief in Louisiana and the state Board of Education approved the choice. At the time, Jindal said in a statement:
“Improving our educational system will require bold leadership and innovative ideas, such as empowering parents with more choices, rewarding highly effective teachers, and giving our schools the flexibility to pursue the most effective reforms for students in their communities. John is just the type of passionate, competent, and committed educator we need as superintendent to build on our record of reform.”
(Even Education Secretary Arne Duncan weighed in, praising White as “a visionary leader.”)
Jindal and White agreed on school reform initiatives including a wide expansion of private school vouchers, an expansion of charter schools, limiting teacher tenure and using student standardized test scores to assign schools A-F letter grades as well as evaluate and pay teachers. They both also backed the Common Core State Standards, which were approved by Louisiana in 2010, and the state’s participation as a member of the Partnership of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), one of the two multi-state consortia tasked with designing new Core-aligned standardized tests with some $360 million in federal funds.
But that was then and this is now.
Jindal has watched many of his Republican colleagues turn against the Common Core and Core-aligned exams and he has jumped on that bandwagon. Now Jindal is saying that he wants Louisiana to withdraw from PARCC and design its own statewide assessment, and if the legislature doesn’t do it, he may do it unilaterally.
Enter White, who remains a Core and PARCC supporter. He now says that Jindal can’t unilaterally end Louisiana’s PARCC membership and that his permission, along with that of Chas Roemer, the president of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, is needed to break away. Both won’t give it. The Times-Picayune quoted White as saying that developing a new exam would be more expensive for the state than staying with PARCC and using the exam that the consortium is now field-testing.
Roemer went so far as to accuse Jindal of staging “parlor tricks” to try to stop PARCC, according to the Times-Picayune:
“It has become a political card in a house of cards,” said Roemer about the debate over Common Core.
Nobody stays together anymore.