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Louisiana Chief: Jindal Using Budget Cuts to Hamstring Common-Core Testing

In the ongoing battle over the Common Core State Standards and aligned tests in Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal has repeatedly seen his push to eliminate the standards and exams in the state thwarted by Superintendent John White and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. But now Jindal might be using another tool at his disposal to take aim at the standards, one he has more direct control over.

The Associated Press reported that Jindal has proposed a 50-percent cut to the state education department's operating budget for fiscal 2016. The budget reduction would reduce the department's state funding by $23 million, and White told lawmakers in a budget hearing April 7 that the cut is so deep that it would undermine the state's assessment program.

That's not to say White said his department couldn't handle any budget cuts at all with respect to testing. White told legislators that if lawmakers agreed to reduce Jindal's proposed budget cut to just $13 million, rather than the $23 million cut Jindal wants, the state could still meet federal testing requirements (as well as its own).

"I recognize that testing is not something that kids love to do, not something that parents always love to have their kids do and so on, but it is a necessary thing to ensure quality in our education system," White said, adding the state would face "a state of chaos" if lawmakers approved Jindal's reduction.

If you look at the complete fiscal 2016 budget Jindal proposed, there's actually an increase in the state's general spending on education by $11 million, up to $3.5 billion. However, the state education department gets a relatively small slice of those funds for its work—Jindal wants to cut general spending for the department specifically to drop from just under $49 million to just over $25 million. 

Kristy Nichols, the commissioner of the state's Division of Administration (an executive agency under Jindal's control), said Jindal has no intention of targeting the state's testing regimen with his reduction, and that White has the power to spread the cuts around his department as he sees fit.

Previously, Jindal announced plans to introduce legislation to require the state to come up with new standards, as well as his intention to make sure the legislation avoids the legislature's education committees, which have so far proven hostile to anti-common-core proposals. He also wants to get rid of the common-core-aligned test from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which the state began administering this spring and which White supports.

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