Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s call to scrap Common Core academic standards for Wisconsin schools is meeting resistance from GOP Senate leaders, with one key lawmaker calling it “monkey business.”
Republicans currently have majorities in both the state Senate and Assembly, but elections this November will determine which party is in the majority next year. Republicans have a strong 60-39 majority in the Assembly but a narrower 17-15 hold on the Senate, with one vacancy in a heavily GOP district.
Walker, who is also up for re-election, called Thursday for the Legislature to write new standards when it reconvenes in January.
That may be easier said than done.
Conservative Republicans’ proposal to do away with the standards failed to garner enough support to pass last session, even with the GOP in control.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said in a statement that while there may be support for repealing the Common Core, “developing new standards that satisfy everyone’s concerns will be much more difficult.”
And Sen. Luther Olsen of Ripon, the Republican chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a Common Core supporter, said the Legislature can’t repeal the standards because they were adopted voluntarily by school districts across the state.
“I believe 90 percent of the schools are going to say, ‘Madison you go do what you want to do, we’re going to continue with the Common Core,’” Olsen said. “I have to believe people in this state have a lot more faith in their local school board than they do the Legislature in Madison.”
If the Legislature mandated standards too different from Common Core, it would hurt high school students taking college placement tests tied to the standards being used by most states, Olsen said.
“This is much more serious than this monkey business around saying we can do better,” Olsen said.
Walker said Friday during a visit to Milwaukee Area Technical College in Oak Creek that whatever is adopted may not differ significantly from Common Core standards.
“It’s one of those where they’ll have to adjust some things, some of the things may very well parallel, other things will be different,” he said. The goal is to have the standards developed by educators, parents, community members, and people involved with education in Wisconsin, Walker said.
Wisconsin and nearly every other state agreed to develop the standards, aimed at improving schools and students’ competitiveness, in 2009. Wisconsin state superintendent Tony Evers signed a resolution in 2010 to implement the standards, which spell out what students should know and when in the areas of math and English.
Evers on Friday said schools have spent four years implementing the standards and doing away with them “brings chaos to our children and our classrooms.”
The standards for elementary math have confounded some parents by departing from some traditional methods to emphasize that students must understand how numbers relate to each other. Other critics have complained that the standards rely too heavily on student test scores, which in turn are used to evaluate teacher performance.
Many conservatives have argued the standards take away local control and amount to a nationalization of education.
Walker has been critical of the standards, even though he supported spending millions on new tests tied to them that are scheduled to be implemented in schools across Wisconsin next spring.
Walker said Friday that he doesn’t know how much it would cost to come up with new standards but he doesn’t think it would be significant.
This year, $23 million has already been allocated to implement new tests tied to the standards, based on a 2013 memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The memo said it was difficult to determine how much it would cost to scrap the standards and start over as Walker is now advocating.
Walker’s announcement came four days after he and other Republican governors criticized Common Core during a meeting of the National Governors Association in Nashville.
Walker is considering running for president in 2016 and conservatives nationwide have been bashing the Common Core standards.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was the first to sign legislation revoking Common Core in April and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana signed a series of executive orders blocking the use of tests tied to the standards. Republican governors in Oklahoma and South Carolina have also signed measures aimed at repealing the standards.
“It’s all political and the sad thing is at the end of the day it doesn’t show true leadership,” said Olsen, a moderate Republican who has broken with Walker on issues before.