(Madison, WI) Yesterday Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) out of the blue issued a press release calling for Wisconsin to repeal the Common Core.
He said in a prepared statement, “Today, I call on the members of the State Legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”
Governor Walker has been relatively quiet on the standards. He told reporters last fall that he’d like Wisconsin to have its own unique standards that were higher than what was already established. “I’d like us to be in the position where we can identify our own unique standards that I think in many ways will be higher and more aggressive than the ones they’re talking about,” Walker said.
The Governor’s spokesperson said that his statement was to clarify his position after the the Cedarburg School Board voting 5-0 to ask the state to delay implementing the Smarter Balanced Assessments, the Common Core assessment consortia Wisconsin belongs to, by two years. The Germantown School District last December voted to move away from the Common Core and develop its own standards instead.
Walker did not mention Common Core during this year’s state of the state address instead focusing on his school to work initiative. At the state education conference he did mention Common Core.
“Like every other parent across the state, I want our education system to help our kids excel and reach their full potential,” Walker said. “Federal standards in education may be raising the bar in some states, but in Wisconsin, we can do better. The education leaders here in our state are most qualified to assess the best way to take the standards we set for students to the next level.”
Walker worked with members of the Legislature in both chambers crafting legislation that would have created a process that would develop Wisconsin-based model academic standards. Specifically this legislation would have created a commission to review the the Common Core, and Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Evers would have chaired it. Evers, a Democrat, threatened a lawsuit if the Common Core is rejected by the Legislature and Walker.
That legislation sponsored by State Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), SB 619, failed to pass. The Wisconsin Assembly had formed a select committee on the Common Core State Standards that issued a report of its activities that included public hearings held throughout the state prior to the legislative session. The lack of action by the Legislation prompted an open letter signed by leaders of 45 grassroots organizations in the state saying that they now “owned” the Common Core.
“It’s campaign season in Wisconsin and around the country and, not surprisingly, politics trumps sound policy,” Evers said in a released statement. “The notion that Wisconsin could simply repeal our standards or take a two year time out on our assessments not only runs counter to both state and federal law, it jeopardizes important reforms like educator effectiveness and school and district accountability. But most importantly it brings chaos to our children and our classrooms.”
“The idea that they’d just be able to replace the standards at the beginning of the legislative session is absurd,” said Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake), the chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We’re in an election season. People desperate to be re-elected will say anything.”
Kestell announced in April that he would not be running for reelection. Reelection may have been a hard sell after activists in the Wisconsin Republican Party’s 2nd, 4th and 6th Congressional District caucuses passes a resolution of no-confidence and no support for Kestell, as well as, his counterpart in the Wisconsin Senate – Senate Education Committee Chair Luther Olson (R-Ripon). Kestell represented parts of Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District.
Walker’s Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, is a member of the Madison School Board. Burke is a supporter of the Common Core State Standards and her campaign criticized Walker’s statement. “This is a desperate election year move by a career politician to shore up his extreme right-wing base,” said a statement from Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki.
Walker is in a tight race with Burke. The last poll conducted by Marquette University has Walker up by 3 points.
Walker’s announcement comes shortly after returning from the National Governor’s Association meeting last weekend. Common Core was a topic avoided on the agenda. This week Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D) signed legislation that would review and replace the Common Core in his state. North Carolina Governor Pat McCroary (R) said that he would sign a repeal and replace bill his state’s legislature passed this week. Utah Governor Gary Hebert (R) announced he wants the Common Core reexamined. He said he was going to ask his state’s Attorney General see what, if any, federal entanglements the Common Core has brought to the state. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) signed an executive order that will create a commission to review the Common Core. Common Core opponents in Christie’s state believe the executive order is meaningless. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R) called the Common Core “radioactive” when talking to reporters at the NGA meeting. Caffeinated Thoughts reported earlier this week, that the Iowa Department of Education still has not acted on the executive order Branstad issued last fall.