A bill that would create a special state board to approve national educational standards received a public hearing in committee Thursday, where officials from the Department of Public Instruction and local school districts voiced their support for the current Common Core State Standards.
But Senate Education Committee Chair Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, told the Associated Press the bill may not pass the Legislature, as five Republican senators may oppose the bill.
Olsen did not name the five senators, but without their support the proposed bill creating a model Academic Standards Board would only have 13 of the 17 votes needed in the Senate, as Democrats have opposed the bill to revisit the national educational Common Core standards.
“This important legislation is being attacked from behind closed doors by unnamed senators,” Rep. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, said in a statement. “The time has come for elected officials to stand up and be counted. Members of both houses should be courageous enough to take a position on one of the most important education policies addressed this session.”
In his testimony, Deputy State Superintendent Mike Thompson said the creation of the board would be bad for students because it would undermine the Common Core standards.
“The Common Core provides a framework for educators and parents to better gauge student progress,” Thompson said. “They are a vast improvement over Wisconsin’s previous model academic standards, and educators across the state are already seeing positive changes in our schools as a result.”
Because members of the board would be chosen by both the superintendent and governor, as well as members of the Legislature, Thompson said the issue of educational standards would be politicized.
“The proposed standards board and the legislative process for standards adoption are partisan political processes that, at the end of the day, put politicians in the Legislature in charge of writing academic content standards,” Thompson said.
The board would need to draft bills regarding standards that could then be debated on the floor of the Legislature, according to Assistant State Superintendent Sheila Briggs.
According to the Associated Press, Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, said she believes momentum for the process is growing in the state.
“We should not work to be common,” Vukmir said. “We should work to be exceptional.”
Dan Rossmiller, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, also testified, saying he has concerns that opposition to the Common Core is not based on the standards’ content but on dislike for the federal government.
He said many opponents of the Common Core believe local control has been lost with their adoption, but this is not the case.
“Decisions about curriculum and instructional materials used in our schools remain with the local school board, where those decisions have always resided,” Rossmiller said. “We don’t have a list of required books in our state; we have never had such a list – not under the Common Core or before the Common Core.”
[Photo from Flickr user frankjuarez]