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Legislative questions remain unanswered in WI Common Core debate

By   /   July 30, 2013  /   3 Comments

By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – Sometime over the next two weeks, two Republican lawmakers will meet in private to decide whether they will pursue a legislative study of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

That the lawmakers will meet in private is perhaps apropos given the under-the-radar way in which Common Core, the set of national academic standards, is being implemented in Wisconsin.

In 2010, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers signed on to the sweeping overhaul of math and English standards for K-12 students without so much as a public hearing, though DPI officials stress there was a public comment period.

COMMON CONCERN: Despite a legislative hearing that resulted in a slowdown of Common Core State Standards in Wisconsin, the power to proceed lies in the hands of two lawmakers.

More than 100 anti-Common Core crusaders showed up to a legislative hearing — the only legislative hearing on Common Core to this point — in May. The session resulted in more questions than answers, but state Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, led a budget motion to hit the pause button on Common Core.

“Today’s vote will ensure that a comprehensive look is taken at Common Core Standards’ effects on our curricula as well as their fiscal impact. Due to the passage of this motion, at least six public hearings will be required in addition to the written evaluation,” Knudson said in a statement after the Legislative Joint Finance Committee’s vote.

Knudson’s budget motion required the Department of Public Instruction to implement academic standards that meet the “college and career readiness” threshold for the state to qualify for a federal flexibility waiver. It also required DPI to keep standards adopted prior to July 1 – namely, English and math Common Core standards.

And the motion required DPI to consult with the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau to estimate the fiscal costs of both fully implementing Common Core standards and discontinuing the implementation of the Common Core. That report is due by Sept. 1. The fiscal bureau told Wisconsin Reporter it has started working on those estimates.

Knudson’s motion also requested that the Joint Legislative Council, co-chaired by Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, and Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, establish a committee to study Common Core standards and report the findings of the following by Nov. 1:

· Compare existing Wisconsin standards with the Common Core standards.

· Consider best practices in developing and adopting the standards, seeking information from a broad range of sources.

· Evaluate the cost to the state associated with implementing Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers assessment or the Smarter Balanced assessment by schools.

It’s the squishy legislative lingo “request” instead of “require” that has activists concerned.

Ed Perkins of the Fox Valley Initiative, an Appleton tea party group, said he and other anti-common core activists thought they had won the opportunity to have Common Core vetted publicly in Wisconsin. He said the Fox Valley Initiative will host area lawmakers at an event for an update on Common Core in mid-August.

When Wisconsin Reporter inquired about a coming legislative study, a legislative staffer in Ballweg’s office promptly corrected Wisconsin Reporter’s language. She said the matter is up to the co-chairs, each having to agree to a committee study. A meeting, the staffer said, is expected to happen the first week of August.

Olsen, Ballweg and Knudson did not return multiple requests from Wisconsin Reporter for comment.

Contact Ekvall at rekvall@wisconsinreporter.com

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M.D. Kittle is national First Amendment reporter at Watchdog.org. Contact him at mkittle@watchdog.org.

  • Conservative Spartan

    Perhaps contact Sen Olsen at 608-266-0751 AND Rep Ballweg at 608-266-8077 and encourage them to follow through on the JFC resolution and hold hearings and do a cost analysis on Common Core.

  • Kim Simac

    Just called. When are the hearings????

  • Edward Perkins

    Sen. Olson needs to be dealt with. He won’t answer emails, phone calls or letters on Common Core. We need to use a 2×4 on his head to see if there is anything up there!

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