Scott Walker speaks at Joni Ernst's Roast and Ride near Boone, IA on 6/6/15.Photo credit: Dave Davidson (Prezography.com)
Scott Walker speaks at Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride near Boone, IA on 6/6/15.
Photo credit: Dave Davidson (Prezography.com)

Fifty-eight leaders representing fifty-six grassroots organizations sign an open letter to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker tell the Republican governor who is expected to jump into the presidential race next week, “no more games on Common Core.”

Signers include:

  • United Opt Out  – a national group active in Wisconsin encouraging parents to opt out of high stakes testing
  • The Wisconsin BATs (Badass Teachers Association) – a grassroots group representing the voice of Wisconsin teachers
  • FreedomProject Education – An online school
  • Parents Groups:
    • Protect Your Child’s Future
    • Kewaskum Against Common Core
    • Opt Out Fox Cities
  • 10 Chapters of Young Americans for Liberty representing college students from around Wisconsin
  • More than 25 patriot groups
  • Current and former chairs of 3 Republican County Parties
  • Current chairs of 2 Libertarian County Parties

The letter will be hand delivered to Walker this morning.   The signers represent groups from across the political spectrum: liberal, conservative and libertarian united in their opposition to the games they are convinced Governor Walker is playing with Common Core in his biennial budget.  Common Core has been in play as an issue in the race leading up to the Iowa Caucuses, and this issue has the potential to damage Walker if activists in Iowa (and New Hampshire and South Carolina) don’t believe he is dedicated to opposing Common Core in a meaningful way.

The text of the letter is below:

Governor Walker,

It is time for some hard questions…and the truth.

On April 20th of this year, you were directly asked during a major media interview if you would repeal Common Core should such a bill land on your desk. You replied affirmatively, adding, “Absolutely! I proposed it in my budget.”

Yet, contrary to claims you stand against the Common Core standards, you are effectively entrenching those standards in Wisconsin via Common Core-aligned, high-stakes assessments.

For months, you have justified taking no definitive action against Common Core, insisting that local school districts have the power to decide for themselves what standards they will use.

However, in a statement to the press on January 17th of this year, you demonstrated clear understanding that Common Core-aligned assessments effectively coerce school districts into retaining the standards.

For this reason, many of us were initially encouraged when you indicated that you would defund Wisconsin’s participation in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) via your proposed 2015-2017 biennial budget. We hoped for substantive movement, at long last, on an issue that affects most children, parents, and teachers in Wisconsin. However, as we read the actual budget language, we became troubled. Despite the defunding of SBAC, nothing in the budget language prohibits the selection or implementation of another Common Core-aligned assessment. Nor does it propose any fiscal plan for the creation or adoption of non-Common Core standards.

As it turns out, we were right to be skeptical.

On April 23rd, the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DoA) issued a Request for Bids (RFB) to replace the SBAC assessments that your proposed budget would ostensibly defund. The RFB was so vague as to which academic standards bidders should use to construct the new assessments that it took two rounds of questions to pin down a definitive answer. On June 5th the truth was irrefutably revealed: For mathematics and English Language Arts (ELA), the State of Wisconsin is telling bidders to write assessments based on the Common Core. Even then, there was clearly an effort to make it difficult to get to the truth. The links provided to the math and ELA standards did not directly contain the standards. Bidders and interested citizens, such as us, had to chase a rabbit trail of links and pages finally to arrive at PDF documents that contained the standards—clearly labeled as Common Core.

Please tell us, then, Governor Walker, how you can say you are doing anything to rid this state of the false reform initiative that is Common Core?

Please also share with us how you can say, as you did to a national radio audience, that you have proposed repealing Common Core in your budget?

Moreover, please explain to us how the language “the state superintendent may not give effect to any academic standard developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative” can possibly be true in light of the new Common Core-aligned assessments your administration is now pursuing?

Even most legislators were sadly fooled by this gambit. Experience has taught us to be far more measured.

We’re tired, Governor Walker. We’re tired of excuses and half-truths. We’re tired of misleading and hollow rhetoric that repeatedly amounts to nothing more than political loopholes and broken promises. And most of all we’re tired of watching while the education of the children of Wisconsin takes a backseat.

To whom are you listening on this issue, Governor? It certainly isn’t people who actually care about the individual lives of Wisconsin children, the rights of parents, the livelihoods and freedom of teachers, or the proper authority of the average citizen over education.

Here are some measures that would make a true difference, Governor, in dispensing with Common Core—items that remain completely unaddressed in this state:

  • Prevent the wholesale collection, mining, storage, and sharing of personally identifiable student data.
  • Prohibit the Common Core initiative, anything based on it, and any standardized assessments aligned to it.
  • Provide for the immediate adoption of temporary model standards completely unaligned to Common Core.
  • Propose an operational plan, budget, and timeline for Wisconsin to create its own standards and assessments, with direct input from classroom teachers and university professors possessing both actual subject-matter and instructional expertise.
  • Ensure that high-stakes, standardized assessments—the results of which have long been known to correlate to little more than ZIP code—can no longer be leveraged as a principal means of gauging teacher, school, or district accountability.
  • Reduce the fiscal role and oversight of the state in education, so that citizens in a local district once again become the principal agents of accountability and may more truly be masters of their own affairs.

We’re not going away.

We are waiting and watching, Governor…and with your ambitions for higher political office on full display, so is the rest of the nation.

Will you finally lead on this issue? Or is that up to someone else?

Click here for a pdf version of the letter and to see who signed.

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