By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – State Sen. Luther Olsen says he supports a Legislative Council study committee on Common Core State Standards that was requested in the 2013-2015 biennial budget, but it is “the wrong time of the season” for the study.
The Ripon Republican, co-chair of the Joint Legislative Council committee, on Thursday said Legislative Council studies happen in even numbered years, even though he voted for the motion requesting three public hearings and a study completed by Nov. 1. That motion passed in the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee in May as an add-on to the state budget.
On Monday, 34 GOP lawmakers sent a letter to Olsen and Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, asking again for the study.
“We find the Joint Legislative Council study committee … is essential for the public and legislature to make an informed decision on (Common Core Standards). We also feel it fully reflects the intent of the Joint Finance motion … The (implementation) process lacked the transparency and public awareness that it should have received,” the letter states.
“Superintendent Tony Evers was the sole person who enacted Common Core in the state of Wisconsin,” said Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, in a Wednesday telephone interview with Wisconsin Reporter. “This is going to be the standards of education that can potentially be used for future generations of Wisconsin students, and the Legislature and the public has not had chance to chime in on it.”
Olsen told Wisconsin Reporter it has “taken longer than I thought it was going to” and that legislative leadership was slowing down the process.
“Rep. Ballweg and I are co-chairs. We have to work with our leadership to decide how we’re going to handle this,” Olsen said. “Right now they haven’t given us direction, and we haven’t had an agreement on how to move forward.”
He said talks over commissioning a study have been “off and on.”
Hundreds of anti-Common Core activists turned out to an informational hearing in May, the only legislative hearing on Common Core in Wisconsin. That session arrived three years after the standards were adopted by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers. The hearing took testimony from invited experts, not the public.
Those with concerns about Common Core thought they had earned a foot in the door with the JFC motion. But it remains to be seen if they’ll get any further.
“We, as legislators, sometimes get frustrated because the general public often doesn’t get involved,” Thiesfeldt said. “Here we have a situation where the public wants to get involved and it seems we in Legislature are ignoring that.”
The Joint Finance Committee inserted the budget motion, for which Olsen voted, calling for a Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis of the costs of implementing or halting Common Core, a Department of Public Instruction report to the Legislature on Common Core, three DPI public hearings on the standards and a Legislative Council study with more public hearings.
DPI has not responded to Wisconsin Reporter inquiries about the public hearings.
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