After conservative interest groups became involved in the hearings on Common Core Standards, Rep. Christine Sinicki, D- Milwaukee, resigned Friday from the Assembly’s special committee on the standards.
The John Birch Society, a conservative political advocacy group, paid experts to testify against the controversial Common Core academic standards in public hearings last week, which Sinicki called “immoral” in her resignation letter to committee chairs Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, and Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac.
“It has become painfully clear that this committee and its activities are occurring at the behest of interested parties outside of this Legislature, and even this state,” Sinicki said in her letter.
Common Core standards have been set in 45 states and territories nationwide to address English and mathematics standards for each grade level of students and set guidelines for high school students looking to enter college or the workforce, according to a statement from the state Department of Public Instruction.
Sinicki said in her letter she would not sit on a committee that involves itself with “extreme” interest groups during legislative hearings but does not pay attention to the teachers and administrators affected by the standards.
Farrow said in a response to Sinicki’s resignation that organizations’ involvement in legislative hearings is not uncommon.
“As you know, the Common Core has been in the middle of a national conversation,” Farrow said. “How is their involvement any different than the AFL-CIO or SEIU’s involvement during the Act 10 debate in February 2011?”
Marybeth Schubert, staff member from Sinicki’s office, said in an email to The Badger Herald the hearings have been “biased” because of the group’s involvement.
The American Opinion Foundation collected $5,500 from grassroots fundraising for travel expenses for five John Birch Society experts to testify in the public hearings, according to its statement.
“The chairs of the committee allowed the John Birch Society people to tell them who a number of their ‘invite guest experts’ would be at the hearings,” Schubert said. “The JBS is one of the most ultra-conservative groups in the U.S., and happen to have their national headquarters here in Appleton, Wis.”
Thiesfeldt added in his response to Sinicki’s resignation that Sinicki had been missing from the last three hearings, and thanked her for her “nearly 3-4 hours of service” at the first meeting in Madison.
Three additional meetings were held in Fond du Lac, Eau Claire and Wausau.
Patrick Gasper, DPI spokesperson, said in an email to The Badger Herald parents, educators and leaders across the state supporting the Common Core Standards have demonstrated their opinions through testimony at the hearings.
Gasper declined to comment on the hired testimony paid for by the John Birch Society.
David Anderson, superintendent of the Chequamegon School District, said in a statement ending the Common Core Standards would devastate the district.
Echoing the sentiments of administrators throughout the state, Terri Phillips, executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance, said in a statement districts have spent money and time investing in the standards because of their belief in its ability to help Wisconsin students.