On Saturday during the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Spring Kickoff in Waukee, IA I was given the opportunity to interview Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for CaffeinatedThoughts.com. I was able to ask him about Common Core and testing in Wisconsin below is the transcript of that part of the interview.
Shane: Common Core seems to be an issue that is cropping up, at least in the primary election, and we are seeing some differences between different candidates. Where do you stand on Common Core?
Gov. Walker: I oppose it. I like high standards. I think high standards are a good thing. I have two kids who went to public schools who are in college now, and I’ve got two nieces who are in public schools. I want high standards, but I want them set by people at the local level – by parents, by teachers, by school board members and others out there.
Years ago, when I first ran in 2010, it wasn’t even on our radar. I didn’t hear about it, it didn’t really come up anywhere on my radar, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago in 2013 in our state when a number of parents and concerned citizens and even teachers came to us so after that we drafted legislation to pull back from that. It had been in the law in our state before I became governor, we actually have an independently-elected Superintendent of Public Instruction who is not in my cabinet who actually administers it, so we have to change the law to do that.
The legislature didn’t pass it, but I put in my budget language that said, that pulls back on it and says no school district has to use it, and we pulled the testing for any money for Smarter Balanced.
Shane: When you campaigned, you were campaigning on a repeal, and are now pushing, putting forth an opt-out…
Gov. Walker: Well it really is a repeal. There is no law that mandates it. What it does, the language we put in explicitly says school districts don’t have to, and that the language in there… there is not a law that says they have to do Common Core. There is a law that says they have to do standards, and then there is a law.. or there is money in the budget for Smarter Balanced. We got rid of that, so that is effectively a repeal.
Shane: What is Wisconsin going to end up with next year without Smarter Balanced if that is not funded?
Gov. Walker: Oh I think what we’ll do is have whole options of things that people can use for testing so people, so school boards, administrators can pick at the local level which option they want to use so whether it is the ACT or any number of other things out there, but they are not told by the state government exactly what they have to do and they do not have to abide by, they don’t have to be obligated to use Common Core curriculum.
Go here to watch the video or read the transcript for the entire interview.
There were additional questions I could have asked on the subject to press him further, but this was an interview, not a debate. If the other assessments, and we are not certain of what other assessments will be offered, are aligned to Common Core what motivation will a school board have to opt-out? That is the burning question behind opt-out legislation. Also a recent article in The Journal-Times says his budget just reiterates current law:
…Walker’s budget doesn’t repeal the standards. Instead, the spending plan reiterates what state law already provides: that no school board is required to adopt the Common Core standards.
While the state Department of Public Instruction adopted the standards in 2010, and chose a state assessment aligned to the standards, school districts are not required to use the standards by law.
Walker also proposes in his budget to prohibit use of the Common Core-aligned state exam developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, but does not prohibit using a new test also aligned to the standards.
The budget prohibits state Superintendent Tony Evers from adopting any standards developed by the Common Core State Standards Initiative after the budget is passed, but currently no new standards are being developed by the group.
Wisconsin grassroots activists I’ve talked to want a real repeal, not an opt-out that could still leave school districts on the hook with Common Core. If there were legitimate assessment options that were not tied to Common Core that would be an entirely different matter that unfortunately is being left in the hands of Dr. Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, who threatened to sue if the Common Core was repealed in his state.