Gov. John Bel Edwards' spat over Common Core with AG heats up

The five-day-old spat between Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry over a Common Core lawsuit escalated Monday.

Landry, in a “Dear John” letter to the governor, repeated his view that he — not Edwards — has the final call on whether to drop an anti-Common Core challenge filed by former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Edwards announced last week that he ordered his legal counsel to end the case, which he said was politically motivated and no longer is relevant.

“Under our constitution, the person tasked with the authority to make decisions on the legal business of the state of Louisiana is the attorney general,” Landry wrote in his letter.

Landry also said his office learned last week “via the press” that the governor was ending the lawsuit.

“My office immediately reached out to you with a simple request: give me and my office staff — highly professional, intelligent and capable attorneys — time to internally evaluate this lawsuit,” Landry wrote in the letter.

“After our final analysis of this matter, we may agree the appeal need not continue,” it says. “However, I believe it should be my constitutional right and responsibility to make that decision.”

Edwards’ office said last week the governor’s decision is final, and he reiterated that view in a letter to Landry dated Friday.

“I would like to make it clear that I stand by my decision, and that I expect the 5th Circuit will be notified by the end of business Monday,” Edwards wrote.

“As in any case, the client — not the attorney — should ultimately make the decisions on the course of action, and I have decided that this case will not proceed,” he said.

Landry filed papers with the court on Monday asking that he be allowed to take over the case, according to The Associated Press.

The lawsuit is on appeal at the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals after Jindal’s challenge was rejected last year by U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick.

The former governor filed the lawsuit in 2014 and accused President Barack Obama’s administration of manipulating $4.3 billion in federal dollars to entice states to adopt Common Core, which Jindal opposed.

Dick ruled that Jindal failed to show any such threat existed.

Edwards, a Common Core opponent, said recent federal education legislation makes moot issues raised by Jindal.

Common Core, which is in its second year in public school classrooms, represents revamped academic benchmarks in reading, writing and math.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @Will Sentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog/.

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