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State v. United States Department of Education

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

February 26, 2015

BOBBY JINDAL, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, AND ARNE DUNCAN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION

RULING

SHELLY D. DICK, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss [1] and the Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint [2] by the

MEMORANDUM RULING

("Defendant or DOE"). Plaintiff, Governor Bobby Jindal ("Plaintiff" or "Governor Jindal"), has filed Oppositions [3] to both motions. On November 20, 2014, the Court held a hearing on the issue of standing and ordered the parties to file post-hearing briefs for the Court's consideration.[4] For the following reasons, the motions will be denied.

The only issue before the Court is whether the Plaintiff has the requisite standing to bring the suit, a question which is determinative of the Court's subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case. The merits of the claim are not before the Court at this stage of the proceedings and nothing in this opinion is intended to, nor should it be construed as, the Court's opinion regarding the merits of the claim.

I. BACKGROUND

According to the DOE, in 2009, Governor Jindal enthusiastically committed the State of Louisiana to join forty-eight (48) other states in a collaborative, State-led effort to develop academic content standards that were common across States but required no particular curriculum, which became known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative. In 2010, Governor Jindal was equally enthusiastic when he committed Louisiana to join a consortium of States to develop assessments aligned with the Common Core standards known as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

With great fanfare, and a stated commitment to adopt Common Core standards and implement assessments, Governor Jindal signed Louisiana's applications for substantial federal grant money available under the Race to the Top (RTT) Program.[5] As a result of these efforts, in 2011, Louisiana was awarded $17.4 million in RTT grants.[6] According to the Governor, "to date, Louisiana has drawn down $12, 678, 383 of the [grant] amount."[7] In other words, the State has spent almost $13 million of the $17.4 million RTT grant it received in 2011.

The State, under Governor Jindal's administration, also applied for and received waivers of many substantial, and some would even argue burdensome, conditions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).[8] In essence, by obtaining ESEA waivers, the State was able to maintain ESEA funding with significantly less "red tape." Louisiana applied for and began receiving ESEA waivers in 2012.[9] Louisiana continues to enjoy the benefits of ESEA waivers for which it applied and was granted.[10]

Following a groundswell of public opinion indicating disapproval with the Common Core Standards and the PARCC assessments, Governor Jindal moves this Court to enjoin the DOE from enforcing what the Governor calls unlawful and coercive conditions which he contends are the quid pro quo for the State to receive RTT funds and ESEA waivers. Governor Jindal argues that the DOE coerced the State into adopting a common set of K-12 standards defined as "a set of content standards that define what students must know and be able to do and that are substantially identical across all States in a consortium, " and to join a consortia of States to develop assessments aligned with those standards.[11] The Governor argues that the State had no meaningful choice in the standards it adopted because the Common Core Standards were the only readily available standards that met DOE's regulatory requirements.[12] Seeking succor in the shelter of the Tenth Amendment, Governor Jindal argues that the DOE leaves no room for the States to exercise their sovereign authority over education. The Governor maintains that the combination of common standards and assessments aligned to measure the achievement of those standards has the practical effect of prescribing educational curriculum which is squarely and exclusively within the sovereign province of the State.[13]

II. LAW & ANALYSIS

A. The Tenth Amendment

Under the Tenth Amendment, "the Federal Government may not compel States to implement, by legislation or executive action, federal regulatory programs."[14] However, while the federal government may not compel them to do so, it may encourage States and municipalities to implement federal regulatory programs.[15] For example, the federal government may make certain federal funds available only to those States or municipalities that enact a given regulatory regime.[16] The crucial proscribed element is coercion; the residents of the State or municipality must retain "the ultimate decision" as to whether or not the State or municipality will comply with the federal regulatory program.[17] However, as long as "the alternative to implementing a federal regulatory program does not offend the Constitution's guarantees of federalism, the fact that the alternative is difficult, expensive or otherwise unappealing is insufficient to establish a Tenth Amendment violation."[18]

Governor Jindal has emphasized that his challenge is not to the legislation enacted by Congress but rather to the DOE's actions that are expressly prohibited by several Education Acts.[19] Hence, it is not Congress that is alleged to have enacted legislation which violates the Spending Clause, but the DOE as an executive agency that has allegedly imposed grant programs and conditions pursuant to this legislation that are impermissibly coercive and beyond federal Spending Clause authority. In fact, Governor Jindal contends ...


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