Local Control and The Common Core

Last week, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal made headlines when he said he was pulling his state out of the Common Core.  "The federal government would like to assert control of our educational system," Jindal said, explaining his actions. "We're very alarmed about choice and local control of curriculum being taken away."

Why, Mr. Jindal, it just so happens that I’ve written a book on local control in education!  You should check it out!

The evidence the book presents suggests that appeals to local control have political value, but that no one actually does much to restore decision-making authority over key educational issues like curriculum to local schools, school boards, and parents.  Jindal is a presumed candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.  When trying to score points with conservative voters, the federal government makes a great whipping boy. 

But 40 years of education policy history suggest that the current backlash will not restore any real local control, even in states that reject the Common Core.  Like almost every other state, Louisiana had a robust set of state standards and tests long before the Common Core was a glimmer in its authors’ eyes.  Jindal’s “local control of curriculum” has not existed for at least 20 years.  If his goal is to reorient Louisiana’s public schools towards state-specific standards, he may succeed, but truly empowering contemporary parents to make curriculum decisions is akin to trying to put the genie back in the bottle.

Elizabeth Fuqua