BATON ROUGE -- Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration said Thursday it needs further details before deciding whether to sign off on the state school board's plan to hire a law firm that would pursue a possible lawsuit against the governor.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Jindal for his efforts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, whose office reviews state agency contracts, requested more information from BESE about its contract with a law firm that has agreed to represent the education board for free.

"There are some concerns that must be addressed before the contract is approved," Nichols wrote to Education Superintendent John White and BESE President Chas Roemer.

The education board voted earlier this month to hire special legal counsel. But in a complication to the plan, state boards that hire outside lawyers must get written approval from the attorney general and the governor.

The attorney general's office approved the BESE contract, and it was submitted to the governor's Division of Administration for review this week.

Nichols' letter said the contract is missing standard clauses used in state legal agreements. But in a broader issue, she said she wanted to meet with Roemer and White to talk about "the intent of contract."

"As a general minimum guideline, counsel must affirm it is not representing any party in an action adverse to the State," she wrote.

Whether the Jindal administration intends to use that guideline to ensure a stumbling block to the education board's plan is unclear.

The Common Core standards, grade-by-grade benchmarks of what students should learn in English and math, have been adopted by more than 40 states.

Jindal, a one-time Common Core supporter, now opposes the standards as a federal intrusion into local education. But a majority of BESE members and White still support the standards.

In June, Jindal suspended testing contracts that the state education department planned to use to buy testing material aligned with Common Core for the upcoming school year.

The governor said the department didn't follow state procurement law in the testing contract. White and Roemer said Jindal overstepped his legal authority.

The dispute has stalled standardized testing plans for third-through eighth-grades, with school opening in less than three weeks.

Parents and teachers who support Common Core sued Jindal this week, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy in violation of the Louisiana Constitution.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 4. White told school superintendents Thursday that he will have a standardized testing plan for schools within two weeks of whatever decision is handed down at the hearing.

Also pending is a separate lawsuit filed this week by 17 state lawmakers who oppose Common Core and who claim BESE and the education department didn't properly enact the standards.

 

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