In this country, there’s a constant stream of ridicule directed at filers of frivolous lawsuits: they sue McDonald's for the physical pain caused by spilling coffee served just too hot; they sue the dry cleaners for the “mental anguish” inflicted by lost garments; they sue beer companies that caused their life of crime brought on by alcoholism.
These people are called frivolous. Their personal lives and backgrounds are picked apart. Their motives are called into question… often rightly so. So what should we say about a person who abuses the court system in a further attempt to justify a political flip-flop?
As the Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal has been one of the leading Republican voices pushing for higher standards in public K-12 education. In 2010 Jindal advocated for the adoption of the rigorous Common Core State Standards in Louisiana public schools as part of his work with the National Governors Association. As recently as 2012, the Governor supported the standards; in remarks unveiling his state education plan, he said that adopting the standards “will raise expectations for every child.”
Around the same time, the U.S. Department of Education launched Race to the Top, a $4.35 billion dollar program designed to spur innovation and reform in PreK–12 education. State applications were scored out of five hundred points, which were earned through meeting various criteria on: improving school teachers and leaders, turning around low-performing schools, modernizing data systems, and adopting and implementing rigorous college- and career-ready standards and assessments.
The state of Louisiana was a finalist in both the first and second rounds of Race to the Top, and was awarded $17 million in the third round. The state scored points for their adoption of college- and career-ready standards: the Common Core.
Through the Race to the Top Assessment Program, also announced in 2010, two groups of states were also awarded about $330 million in funding to develop college- and career-ready assessments. The states formed two assessment consortia, the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced). Louisiana is a member of PARCC, and Bobby Jindal himself signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the PARCC assessment consortia, effectively committing Louisiana to using those assessments once they were developed.
Everything was going fine for Jindal and his national political ambitions, until Tea Party opposition to the Common Core exploded over the last year. Jindal has been scrambling in response with the least-graceful flip-flop in recent political memory.
While there’s nothing at all surprising about his change of heart, his actions since have certainly raised some eyebrows.
In April, he started by threatening to unilaterally withdraw from the PARCC consortia, undermining both the State Board of Education and the Legislature’s continued support of the standards and assessments. Just last week, his state’s courts squashed his attempt to use his executive authority to repeal the Common Core. Now, he’s taking to the national stage a bit earlier than expected by literally making a federal case of the brouhaha: According to the Associated Press, Jindal filed a lawsuit today accusing the Obama administration of coercing states into adopting the Common Core.
Like other frivolous lawsuits, Jindal—trying to abdicate personal responsibility for his actions—is seeking to prove that his whole Common Core escapade is someone else’s fault. "The federal government has hijacked and destroyed the Common Core initiative," Jindal said. "Louisiana now finds itself trapped in a federal scheme to nationalize curriculum."
It seems more like Jindal is feeling a bit trapped from flip-flopping on a set of policies he spearheaded by the Louisiana State Legislature, the state Board of Education, and now his state’s courts.
Every year the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform releases a list of the most ridiculous lawsuits filed throughout the country. As ILR President Lisa A. Rickard has said, “Whether cringe-worthy or laugh-out-loud ridiculous, ask yourself: ‘Is this really what we want our legal system to look like? Abusive lawsuits both big and small take a collective toll on our society and our economy.”
She concluded, “We should resolve to make 2014 a year where lawsuits are a last resort, not a first reaction.” Clearly, Bobby Jindal is showing us that this is not the year.