A Senate committee is set to take up legislation that would create a board with mostly appointees from the governor’s office and legislative leaders to review the state’s implementation of Common Core education standards.
The bill recently received a public hearing in the Assembly Education Committee, although the committee chair pulled the bill from a vote in an executive session, saying there were some unanswered questions he wanted to clear up.
Republicans, including Gov. Scott Walker, have said they support higher Wisconsin-specific education standards, while Democrats and the state superintendent say the standards are rigorous and school districts have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars implementing them.
The bill’s author, Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, said in an interview with The Badger Herald that state Superintendent Tony Evers adopted the standards unilaterally in 2010 and the public did not have enough say in the implementation.
“A common complaint was that there was really now public involvement in the adoption of Common Core and there was no legislative oversight,” she said. “We have heard from standards experts at public hearings across the state that the Core standards aren’t rigorous enough and that Wisconsin could do better, and that’s what the whole goal is.”
The Common Core standards in Wisconsin, which Evers adopted in 2010, has cost school districts across the state hundreds of millions of dollars to prepare for the standards, supporters say. But those standards could now be reworked if the bill passes and the board agrees on a new set of standards.
Evers, as well as Democrats and the state business lobby group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, have said the standards should remain in place. In a statement, Evers called the bill a “power grab [that would] establish a politicized board.”
“Why does the Legislature insist on going against the wishes of the local school districts, editorial boards across the state, the Wisconsin business community, the U.S. military and families, and educators, parents and students that overwhelmingly agree is the right way forward for Wisconsin?” Evers said.
The public school Common Core standards, developed by the National Governors Association and private testing companies in 2010, focus on math and language arts, and 45 states have implemented the standards, according to the Common Core website.
Proponents of the bill revisiting the standards argue the Common Core standards allow the federal government too much control over Wisconsin’s education system, infringing on local and state control.
Under the bill, school districts would have the option to implement the standards from the board, but districts would still be accountable for meeting the requirements set by the board, Vukmir said.
John Rudolph, a University of Wisconsin education policy professor, said the bill focuses on pushing political goals rather than sound policy. He said the desire to to push for more rigorous standards could be a political move from conservatives to cause public schools to have a harder time meeting standards, strengthening the case for the privatization of Wisconsin schools.
Rudolph said although it has issues, Common Core is valuable because its standards incorporate what colleges and employers are looking for.
Walker, whose office originally drafted the bill, said at the State Education Convention in Milwaukee that he believes Wisconsin should have higher educational standards, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“We embrace high standards in the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said. “The standards that we have in the state should be driven by people in Wisconsin.”
Correction: This article has been updated to clarify the bill will be taken up by a Senate committee.