Education Secretary Arne Duncan has hit back at Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for mounting a lawsuit over the Obama administration’s Common Core academic standards, implying that the Republican lawmaker’s opposition to the controversial policy has been driven by his desire to run for president.
Jindal sued the Obama administration in August, accusing Duncan and the U.S. Department of Education of illegally forcing states to adopt the Common Core by requiring them to enforce the more rigorous standards in order to qualify for federal education grants.
The lawsuit also accused the Obama administration of violating states’ rights by tying waivers from the toughest requirements of No Child Left Behind, the federal education law implemented by former President George W. Bush, to the adoption of Common Core, a set of math and reading standards that aim to boost critical-thinking skills among the nation’s schoolchildren.
Duncan has not addressed the specific charges in Jindal’s suit, but in an exclusive interview with Yahoo News and Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga, he pointed to support of Common Core among Louisiana parents and educators, who have sued Jindal over his efforts to stop the implementation of the policy in his state.
“Take politics out, take presidential ambitions out. Let’s just do the right thing for children,” Duncan said. “Anyone who wants to dummy down standards to make politicians look good, be they Republican or Democrat, I think we have not just an educational but a moral obligation to challenge that history.”
Jindal, a former congressman and Bush administration official who has been openly considering a run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has become a leading critic of Common Core, even though he was a vigorous supporter of the standards when they were first implemented in 2010. Critics have accused him of pandering to conservative Republicans and tea party groups who have trashed the Common Core standards as an attempt by the Obama administration to exert undue influence over issues that should be left up to the states.
But growing unease and confusion over the implementation of Common Core has been something of a public relations nightmare for the Obama administration. Last week, Duncan kicked off a back-to-school bus tour that included stops in several red states — including Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee — where he sought to recast the Education Department as a “partner” with the states as they implement more rigorous academic standards that he argues are vital to the nation’s economic stability.
“Those aren’t Democratic goals or Republican goals, those should be goals for our nation. And if we want to have a strong economy, if we want to keep great jobs, middle-class jobs here, all of us need to work together to give the kids … a chance to have a world-class education,” Duncan said. “We need to unite behind that goal.”
A former professional basketball player, Duncan has been one of Obama’s longest-serving Cabinet members and is a close friend of the president who regularly joins him in pickup games on the court. Amid a series of crises — including a potential war against the Islamic State militant group — Duncan said Obama has remained engaged and focused.
“His thoughtful questions, his hopefulness about where we’re going, given all the very real crises that he’s dealing with on a global basis, is frankly extraordinary,” Duncan said. “He is absolutely all in. In terms of spirits, I think he’s doing well. “
- Politics & Government
- Bobby Jindal
- Arne Duncan
- Common Core