One year ago, Libertas Institute announced a lawsuit against the State Board of Education over its adoption of Common Core, alleging that the Board had violated two laws in so doing—both of which dealt with public notice and input. The Board’s violation thus prevented Utahns from seeking to alter or oppose the untested standards, and led to them being hastily implemented in this state.
Since that time, attorneys for the plaintiffs have been involved in discovery requests, reviewing documents generated by the Board relative to Common Core’s adoption and implementation. However, the Attorney General’s office has now filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit altogether.
The AG’s office, representing the Board, claims the following:
- The plaintiffs cannot bring the lawsuit against the Board, because the clock has run out—the “statute of limitations” has expired, and so no lawsuit against Common Core’s implementation is valid.
- The plaintiffs must file an administrative appeal through the Board itself, rather than suing in court.
- The plaintiffs lack legal standing to sue the Board, and therefore the lawsuit should be dismissed.
- The plaintiffs failed to state a valid claim upon which relief may be granted.
You can read the AG’s 36-page brief here. It is effectively a procedural argument, attacking the plaintiff’s standing, the court’s ability to even hear the case, and the timing of the lawsuit itself. Critics might reasonably infer that because the Board’s violation of the law is clear, this is a desperate attempt to make the lawsuit go away without arguing the merits of the arguments themselves.
The attorneys for the plaintiffs—a group of educators, employers, and parents—have just filed a 17-page motion in opposition to the AG’s request, which you can read here. The arguments are as follows:
The statute of limitations does not apply; the clock has not run out
Challenging administrative rules must be done within two or four years of an agency’s rule’s “effective” date, but the Common Core standards have never become effective as that term is defined under law, because the standards were never adopted as a rule; there is no effective date if there is no rule. Additionally, the standards were not “operative and enforceable” until 2014, making the filing of the plaintiffs’ claims well within the two or four year statute of limitations.
The plaintiffs can’t file an administrative appeal; the court does have jurisdiction
The court has subject matter jurisdiction because administrative remedies were unavailable to the plaintiffs, as the Common Core standards were never adopted as a rule—a prerequisite to making an administrative challenge. The plaintiffs’ only recourse is to file a lawsuit to force the Board to use the administrative process in adopting and implementing CCS, so that the plaintiffs can then seek administrative remedies. The Board is effectively seeking to deny the plaintiffs any remedy by refusing to follow the law.
The plaintiffs clearly have standing to sue the Board
The plaintiffs have traditional standing in seeking declaratory relief by the court. They suffered a palpable injury because they were not allowed an opportunity to give input on the Common Core standards under the Utah Administrative Rulemaking Act (UARA). They also have statutory standing both under the UARA and Utah Code § 53A-1-402.6(1). UARA allows an interested person to request the making, amendment, or repeal of a rule. Utah Code § 53A-1-402.6(1) requires the Board to consult with school boards, school superintendents, teachers, employers, and parents when implementing core standards. Both statutes afford the plaintiffs statutory standing to bring this action, in addition to the declaratory relief law.
The plaintiffs also have public-interest standing in seeking declaratory relief, as they are appropriate parties and the violation of UARA is an issue of significant public importance. The claims raised by the plaintiffs are justiciable. By granting them declaratory relief, the court will settle the issue of whether Common Core standards should be implemented as a rule and subject to the administrative procedure. The plaintiffs can then challenge the standards under UARA as intended by the statute.
The plaintiffs do have a valid claim upon which relief may be granted
The Board argued that since the standards only affect students, the plaintiffs do not have a valid claim and therefore cannot seek judicial relief. But the Common Core standards apply to parents, teachers, school employees, and students—not only to students enrolled in state education institutions as asserted by the Board. Thus, the rulemaking procedures of UARA are applicable to the Common Core standards.
Obviously, the motions themselves contain far more detail than is here presented. Suffice it to say that the Attorney General’s office is avoiding the merits of the plaintiffs’ arguments by repeatedly delaying the procedural hurdles involved in the lawsuit (they had a few things going on with same-sex marriage) and now attempting to quash the lawsuit altogether. The plaintiffs and their attorneys remain quite convinced of the procedural and substantive merits of the case, and eagerly anticipate a favorable judicial review of this motion so that we can move on to the arguments themselves, and force the Board to comply with the law.
The Utah legislature intended for education standards to be vetted and discussed prior to statewide implementation; changing what hundreds of thousands of children are learning about is something that requires public input and awareness. As such, both the rulemaking process and statute itself require public input and involvement—both of which were denied while Common Core was quickly pushed through, despite these standards never being piloted, researched, or proven prior to implementation. Utah children were therefore turned into pedagogical guinea pigs by the Board’s mandate. We seek to hold the Board accountable.