By Jonathan Kaminsky
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on Wednesday sued the Obama administration, arguing that it has coerced states into adopting Common Core education standards.
The move by the Republican governor, who is widely viewed as holding presidential aspirations, comes amid a backlash against the multistate standards that aim to boost critical-thinking skills and apply consistency to a patchwork of state guidelines.
"Common Core is the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C., in control of everything," Jindal said in a statement.
Jindal was a supporter of the standards when his state was among 45 to enact them in 2010, but he has since characterized them as a federal attempt to control the curriculum taught in the nation's schools.
While the standards were developed and implemented by states, the Obama administration encouraged their adoption through a competitive-grant program called Race to the Top, which gave money to cash-strapped states.
Jindal announced in June that he was going to scrap a set of key student tests associated with Common Core. The move was opposed by Louisiana's top education official - a Jindal appointee - and has since been blocked in court.
Several Republican-led states have dropped the standards this year, including Indiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
Jindal's suit was filed against the U.S. Department of Education in federal court in Baton Rouge.
It seeks an injunction to stop the federal government from rewarding or penalizing states over participation in Common Core through Race to the Top.
Common Core has come under fire across the political spectrum. Some left-leaning groups argue it increases reliance on standardized testing and discourage creativity and flexibility in the classroom.
The Department of Education, responding to Jindal's suit, lauded the math and English benchmarks set for Louisiana students by Common Core.
“The most important thing is that children in Louisiana have gone back to school this year with high academic standards in place in their classrooms to help prepare them to succeed," The department's press secretary, Dorie Nolt, said in an email.
(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Eric Beech, Jim Loney and Mohammad Zargham)