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When Walker talks, Republicans listen: Common Core hearings coming

By   /   September 26, 2013  /   No Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker in commanding the GOP’s attention is a lot like the old E.F. Hutton slogan: When Walker talks, his party listens.

Such was the case this week when Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, announced the creation of the Assembly Select Committee on Common Core Standards a day after Walker told Wisconsin Reporter he wanted public hearings and that he thinks the state can create better standards.

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LISTEN UP: Gov. Scott Walker this week said he wanted hearings into the Common Core State Standards and Republican leadership in the Assembly got the message.

The panel is charged with reviewing Common Core and providing recommendations on future implementation.

And there will be hearings.

Democrats and Republicans agree nothing is more important than educating our children,” Vos said in a statement. “This committee will hold public hearings and lead a statewide conversation on what standards should be taught in Wisconsin schools.”

State Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, a former parochial school educator, will serve as chairman.

“These standards are potentially the basis of education for future generations of Wisconsin students, and I am pleased the Legislature and public have been afforded an appropriate opportunity to chime in on it,” Thiesfeldt said in a statement.

Common Core critics say it’s better late than never. Wisconsin already has adopted the math, English language arts and literacy standards without the benefit of a public hearing.

Growing requests for Common Core hearings led to a measure passed in the state budget, but co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Council committee, Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon and Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, the lawmakers responsible for scheduling hearings and commissioning a study, had not done either.

Olsen previously told Wisconsin Reporter he hadn’t received direction from leadership on how to proceed with the request, and that legislative council studies are conducted in even-numbered years. Several dozen Republican lawmakers asked Olsen and Ballweg to schedule the hearings.

Common Core supporters – and the list includes prominent conservatives – contend the standards offer the educational tools students need to prepare for college, and to compete in a global economy. One of the initiative’s biggest backers is the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the conservative education policy think tank, which, coincidentally, received nearly $1 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The liberal foundation handed out at least $150 million to the cause.

Critics contend the standards are untested, watered-down, include more high stakes testing of kids and invasive data tracking. Some tea party groups call the standards ObamaCore because of federal incentives given to states to adopt them.

Walker seemed reticent to answer questions on his position on Common Core until this week.

When he did, fellow Republicans listened — and responded.

“The Common Core Standards are what some recommend for the future of education, but many parents and education professionals remain unconvinced,” said Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, a member of the bipartisan nine-member committee.  “It’s my hope that this committee will be able to cut through rhetoric and talking points to find what is truly the best way forward for our schools.”

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson told Wisconsin Reporter Thursday that the Common Core standards were implemented before the governor took office, and that Walker believes Wisconsin should have higher standards.

“This is consistent with his creation of a school and school district accountability group that put together the school report card system. Wisconsin received a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind law because of this system,” Evenson said.

Contact M.D. Kittle at mkittle@watchdog.org

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M.D. Kittle