BATON ROUGE — Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Gov. John Bel Edwards have reached at least a temporary accord over federal lawsuits filed while Bobby Jindal was the state's governor.
Landry issued a statement on Feb. 11 saying that he would join the motion to dismiss Jindal v. U.S. Department of Education et al., often called the Common Core case, after a thorough internal review.
A public debate, held mostly via open letters and press releases, had arisen between the two newly elected officials over which of them had the authority to drop the case.
“It’s clear under the Louisiana constitution that the vast majority of the decisions made concerning the states litigation are made by the attorney general,” Dane Ciolino, legal ethics expert at Loyola University New Orleans Law School, told the Louisiana Record.
Ciolino said the debate is a common one between governors and attorney generals.
“I think it’s both of them getting into their jobs more than anything,” he said.
Edwards said on Feb. 4 that he would drop the appeal of the lawsuit, which sought to block Common Core nationally. Landry said that he would intervene to determine whether or not the case would proceed.
Edwards responded with a letter that stated: “As in any case the client, not the attorney, should ultimately make the decisions on the course of action; and I have decided the case will not proceed.”
In Landry’s press release announcing that he would join the motion to dismiss, he said, “I will reiterate – my ultimate clients are the citizens, not any department or agency of state government.”
The case was filed by then-governor Jindal in 2014, but was dismissed by Baton Rouge U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick. She ruled that Common Core isn’t a curriculum and federal education laws don’t infringe on state’s rights. Jindal appealed to the 5th Circuit.
The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) led to questions about whether the appeal was necessary. The ESSA was signed into law by President Obama on Dec. 10, 2015. It reauthorizes the national education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, while recommitting to equal opportunity for all students. Under the ESSA, states have significant authority to select accountability goals and accountability systems.
In early February, a 26-member panel of Louisiana educators approved revisions to the Common Core education standards used in the state. The revisions were part of a compromise between critics and opponents of Common Core standards.
Both the governor and the attorney general have said that they are concerned about possible overreach by the Department of Education.
“Education starts in the home and in our communities, not in Washington DC,” Landry said in his press release.
Landry has stated that he will continue to examine the ESSA and that he does not rule out future court action related to Louisiana’s rights.
“Parents, teachers, and their local boards best determine the educational needs of our children,” Landry said. “Federal mandates which coerce state and local governments into accepting federal educational prerogatives will not be tolerated, and I will continue to be vigilant in asserting Louisiana’s rights.”