Steven Walters
The State of Politics

The Coming War Against Common Core

Top priority for Republican legislators next year is to kill Common Core educational standards.

By - Jul 7th, 2014 09:37 am

If you think there was a fight over Common Core educational standards in the Capitol earlier this year, think again. Interviews with dozens of candidates show that it was just a warm-up for the war coming next year over those standards.

No matter who is elected governor, and which party controls the Senate in the 2015-16 session, Assembly Republicans – who all sides privately concede will keep control for the next two years – will push to reverse Wisconsin’s 2010 decision to join most other states in adopting Common Core standards. Several of those Assembly Republicans want Wisconsin to join Louisiana and other states that have withdrawn or repealed Common Core standards.

Six of the 14 Assembly Republicans who sponsored a bill (SB 619) last session that would stop implementation of Common Core standards and let legislators control new educational standards, and who drafts them, are unopposed in Nov. 4 elections. Another Assembly sponsor of that bill, Rep. Steve Nass, of Whitewater, is running for a Senate seat Republicans have controlled for decades.

Leah Vukmir

Leah Vukmir

Three of the five Republican senators who co-sponsored SB 619 aren’t up for election this year; a fourth Senate sponsor, Sen. Leah Vukmir, faces a Libertarian Party challenger. Two Republican senators who kept SB 619 from being debated – Senate President Mike Ellis and Dale Schultz – have retired.

WisconsinEye interviews with more than 70 candidates in Aug. 12 primary elections show that scrapping Common Core standards, or reasserting the authority of local school boards to set their own academic goals, is a top priority of Assembly Republicans. Most Democratic candidates defend Common Core.

“I’m against Common Core,” said Paul Feit, of Brussels, a dentist and one of four Republicans in the Aug.12 primary in the 1st Assembly District. The incumbent, Republican Rep. Garey Bies, is running for secretary of state. “I do not agree with the way (Common Core) was implemented,” added Feit. “It was just more big government pushed on the states…We’re going to set ourselves up for a disaster.”

John Lehman, a 16-year member of the Neenah School Board and one of five Republican candidates in the 55th Assembly District, proudly said his district’s standards are “already higher” than Common Core’s. Lehman wants to replace Neenah Mayor Dean Kaufert, who retired from the Assembly. Lehman asked: Why risk lowering Neenah’s high academic goals by adopting Common Core standards?

Another Republican Assembly candidate, Tiffany Koehler, of Slinger, one of three Republicans in the 58th Assembly District, said killing Common Core standards is one reason why she ran for the Legislature. “Common Core has no place in Wisconsin’s public education system,” Koehler says on her campaign website.

One of Koehler’s GOP opponents, Sandy Voss, was only slightly less critical of those national standards.“I don’t think the federal government should be mandating what we should be teaching in Wisconsin schools,” Voss said. “I think states should have more control…I don’t know if (Common Core) is the answer.”

It’s clear that Assembly Republicans won’t have to decide whether to attack Common Core standards when they debate the 2015-17 state budget, but will have to agree on how far to push the issue.

Tony Evers, state superintendent of public instruction and Common Core’s chief advocate, brought dozens of school superintendents to the Capitol to support those standards and kill SB 619. DPI Deputy Secretary Mike Thompson told legislators there were four major problems with SB 619:

It is “bad for kids.” It “pulls the rug out from under students, schools and communities.” Wisconsin educators “overwhelmingly support the Common Core.” And, it “politicizes something that should be apolitical – what all kids in our state should know and be able to do when they graduate from high school.”

Evers will face a much bigger Common Core fight next year.

As for Democratic candidates, they typically defend Common Core. Rep. Janet Bewley, of Ashland, is one of three Democrats running in the 25th Senate District. In an interview with Wisconsin Eye, she said “Common Core is perfectly fine. It’s not the horrible thing that is being promoted as some death sentence for education.”

“When someone is opposed to education, they try to pull it apart and demonize some components of it,” Bewley added. “It does not have any horrible mandates. It’s reasonable.”

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Email

6 thoughts on “The State of Politics: The Coming War Against Common Core”

  1. Rich says:

    Sandy Voss (critical of those national standards): “I don’t think the federal government should be mandating what we should be teaching in Wisconsin schools”

    I can only hope that the voters in this district can think for themselves since apparently the people that run for office there don’t. Common Core standards are not an initiative of the Federal Government.

  2. David says:

    Republicans are interested in a dumb down of the average citizen so they can easily control and manipulate them with the likes of hate talk radio and Faux News shows. They can educate citizens further with the propaganda messaging in corporate controlled private schools funded by taxpayers. I doubt if any of these legislators have actually reviewed the content of Common Core.

  3. Dick says:

    1. It destroys the American dream of “you can be anything you want to be”
    2. It is filled with employment based testing (ex: why does a factory worker need to learn history, art, literature? They don’t, so under common core they won’t.)
    3. It eliminates division and replaces it with a “circle & tally” system
    4. It eliminates cursive writing
    5. Math will now be based on “feelings” and on a students ability to argue their answers rather then equations and work.
    6. Bill Gates (co-creator) says it’s good enough for our kids but not for his.
    7. When the federal government stops subsidizing the expensive test system ($30-$60 PER TEST!!!) it will be unsustainable at a local level!
    8. Several lesson plans state: 1. Our rights come from NATO 2. Government must be obeyed by all no matter what 3. Discourage competition 4. We are North America, not America

    PLEASE, THIS IS NO UPGRADE TO EDUCATION! I honestly believe it is the deliberate dumbing down of America but you have to decide for yourself. I will be removing my children from any public school that implements this system. PLEASE, DO THE RESEARCH YOURSELF!


  4. PMD says:

    I would love to see the lesson plan that specifically states “Students you must obey the government no matter what.”

  5. David says:

    Point proven. Some of our citizens lack the understanding for the basics needs that includes a well rounded education that includes history, civics, science, art and music, and physical education. I have heard this from a number of people “Why do I need to know that, it will not help me in life or my job?”. This is really a false statement since the more well rounded education a person has a better understanding and background for the most positive choices in life and their impact. A well rounded education is required for an honest and trustworthy functional Republic and Democratic participation. Citizens need to be able to tell the difference in a con-man and the well-informed honest approaches.

    We have a great amount of willful ignorance in our society today and many drink up the brainwashing from various media outlets. Many of our citizens spout the same nonsense and lies from these media centers as fact. They cannot tell the difference.

  6. Bruce Thompson says:

    Dick, did you bother reading the common core before making your comments? Where did the stuff you wrote come from?

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