Written by Logan T. Carlson, News-Herald Media
MARSHFIELD – Gov. Scott Walker appeared to back down from his call to repeal Common Core this week when he said his goal was now to ensure Wisconsin schools have the option of whether to adopt the English and math standards.
However, administration officials said Walker is still committed to working with the Legislature to repeal Wisconsin's adherence to Common Core standards in the next legislative session set to start next month.
The standards, adopted in 2010 by State Superintendent Tony Evers, already are optional. There are no requirements by schools to implement the standards, which are aimed at ensuring students graduate high school ready for college or a career. The Germantown School District announced last year it would not use the new standards, which educators and lawmakers agree are more rigorous than measurements the state previously used.
An effort that would have created an independent board tasked with reviewing educational standards, subject to approval by the state Legislature, ultimately failed to gain support in Madison earlier this year.
State Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, author of that bill and incoming chairman of the Assembly Committee on Education, said the Legislature technically cannot repeal Common Core because the state Department of Public Instruction, not a state law, brought the standards to Wisconsin.
"The only thing that we could possibly have done was a bill to tell DPI they could not implement those standards," he said. "I don't think there is a will to do that in the Legislature."
Whether or not their school districts adopted Common Core, students will take the tests aligned to the standards starting this spring. Thiesfeldt said that situation effectively forces schools to use the standards in order to prepare their students for the tests.
However, school board members and educators in central Wisconsin said they have never felt undo pressure.
"Each school district does have the choice," said Amber Leifheit, chairwoman of the Marshfield School Board's Curriculum and Instruction Committee.
Leifheit said Marshfield administrators have made it clear to the School Board that Common Core is one consideration in conducting curriculum reviews, not the overriding factor.
Democrats in the Legislature, meanwhile, believe scrapping Common Core is one of a number of education policies on the Republican Party agenda starting in 2015.
"We have heard a lot of things from the governor on Common Core," said Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, newly elected as assistant Assembly minority leader. "Members of the Republican caucus will continue to push on this issue, and I continue to be concerned about how this is just another step to make educators' jobs more difficult.
"Superintendents, parents and educators should keep a watchful eye on any attack on these standards," she said.