Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Will Walker Change State’s School Standards?

Once again, Walker threatens to replace Common Core standards. Is he bluffing?

By - Jan 27th, 2014 12:07 pm
Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

The continuing controversy over the Common Core standards for the state’s public schools was renewed once again by Gov. Scott Walker in a speech on Friday at the State Education Convention in Milwaukee.

Walker said said he supports legislation to create a commission, chaired by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, to revisit the Common Core standards, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Walker said the standards weren’t tough enough. “The standards we have in the state should be driven by people in Wisconsin,” Walker declared. “There’s got to be a way for us to put our fingerprints on it.”

As Urban Milwaukee previously reported, Walker was originally a big fan of the Common Core standards. In January 2012, a state task force headed up by Walker and Evers saluted the Common Core as  “a set of rigorous new standards that are benchmarked against the standards of high performing countries” and “create a common set of expectations for children across the country.”

But there was soon a conservative backlash to these standards, which have been embraced by 45 states and DC. Because they are championed by President Barack Obama, Tea Party members and others have assailed them as “ObamaCore,” and the Republican National Committee has condemned them.

That created a huge problem for Walker, who hopes to enter the 2016 Republican presidential primary as the favored conservative. By the spring of 2013, he began to decline reporters requests to discuss the issue. In August 2013 Tea Party activists, who oppose the standards, wrote letters to Walker asking him to reconsider his position. One month later, Walker announced his opposition to the standards.

This prompted puzzled reactions from the Republican legislative experts, state Sen. Luther Olsen of Ripon and state Rep. Steve Kestell of Elkhart Lake, the chairmen of the Senate and Assembly education committees. “They noted the standards — which cover math and language arts but no other subjects — are a floor, not a ceiling, for what schools should teach. Changing the standards at this point also would bear an additional cost,” the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

“(Schools) already bought curriculum, principals are telling teachers to step it up and all of the sudden the governor is sending mixed signals,” Olsen said. “What does that mean?”

Olsen was among the lawmakers who distanced themselves from legislative hearings in October about the standards, which were dominated by the attacks of Tea Party activists, though there is opposition from both the far-right and far-left. “Some of these people (Tea Party activists) have a loose association with the truth,” Olsen told Urban Milwaukee.

In response to Walker’s latest speech, it was Evers turn to be puzzled. “Evers said Friday that, based on his own conversation with Walker a day earlier, the Common Core standards could continue being implemented as they exist now,” the Journal Sentinel reported.

“It’s my belief we’re not abandoning the Common Core, but setting up a commission to add some more stability and formality to the process (of addressing standards changes in the future),” Evers said.

Republican legislators, in fact, have introduced a bill that would revisit the process of how standards are created, but not a bill to change the standards.

As Terry Falk reported for Urban Milwaukee, the horse has already left the barn on the Common Core standards. “Textbook companies as well as the ACT and SAT college entrance test organizations all say they will align with the (Common Core standards),” he wrote. As a result, parents of all political persuasions will want schools to teach to these standards, so their children score high on the college-entrance exams.

But it won’t hurt Walker to continue his opposition. Even if nothing changes in Wisconsin, he will burnish his national conservative credentials.

Categories: Back in the News

One thought on “Back in the News: Will Walker Change State’s School Standards?”

  1. Bruce Thompson says:

    It was widely agreed that Wisconsin’s previous standards were among the poorest in the US, if nothing else too vague to be meaningful, so the Common Core was a huge step forward for us, much more than states with strong standards like California and Massachusetts. Interesting that the Tea Party seems to be merging with the far left on this issue.

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