Scott Walker’s Veto on State Assessment Budget Language

Photo credit: Kelvey Vander Hart
Photo credit: Kelvey Vander Hart

I would be remiss not to point out a line-item veto that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made in the budget bill he signed.  He made 104 line-item vetoes in the bill and one of them had to do with assessments.

Walker stated he presented a budget which “(i)ncreases local control by affirming the authority of school districts to choose their own academic standards, provides a pathway to offering multiple student assessment options and prevents the mandatory application of the national Common Core Standards.”

In his veto message he said (pg. 3) he then vetoed language in the bill that would have prevented that.

  1. Statewide Assessment System

    Sections 3248b [as it relates to renumbering s. 118.30 (1) (a)] and 3248c

    These sections require the State Superintendent to review and adopt a summative examination system to be administered beginning in the 2015-16 school year to pupils in grades 3 through 10 in the subjects of English, reading, writing, science and mathematics. The State Superintendent must ensure that each examination adopted or approved under the system satisfies the assessment and accountability requirements under federal law. Additionally, the State Superintendent must ensure that the summative examination system adopted or approved meets the following criteria:

    (a) the system is vertically scaled and standards-based; (b) the system documents pupil progress toward national college and career readiness benchmarks derived from empirical research and state academic standards; (c) the system measures individual pupil performance in the subject areas of English, reading, writing, science and mathematics; (d) the system provides for the administration of examinations primarily in a computer-based format but permits examinations to be administered with pencil and paper in certain limited circumstances; and (e) pupil performance on examinations adopted or approved under the system serves as a predictive measure of pupil performance on college readiness assessments used by institutions of higher education.

    I am partially vetoing section 3248b as it relates to renumbering s. 118.30 (1) (a) and vetoing section 3248c in its entirety. This provision is unnecessary and would have codified assessment criteria in state law that are closely aligned with national standards I oppose and which local school districts should not be mandated to adopt. Ultimately, local school boards across Wisconsin should be able to determine what test they administer and what standards they adopt. 

The emphasis is mine.  It is important to hold elected officials accountable, but it is also important to point out when they have done the right thing.  He defunded Smarter Balanced, and now he is trying to make sure, within his power, that schools will be able to select the assessment they use.

I have to give him kudos for that.

This precedes a trip he made to Iowa last week where he railed against a “nationwide school board.”

During a speech at the grand opening of his Iowa campaign headquarters last Thursday, Walker appealed to local control.

“Going forward I believe in high standards, but I think those standards should be set at the local level – no Common Core, no nationwide school board. We need to take money and power out of Washington and send it back to our states and back to our schools where it is more effective, more efficient, and more accountable to the American taxpayers out there,” Walker said.

Has he done everything possible to rid Wisconsin of Common Core? I don’t know for certain. I do know, and it seems to be something his critics are unwilling to acknowledge, is that he does not have the final say over standards and assessments.  Dr. Tony Evers, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, does, but Walker can control the budget through the power of the veto pen and it appears he has done just that.

Update: First, I want to make it abundantly clear that this isn’t an endorsement or that I think Walker has done everything in his power to get rid of Common Core.

Second, I had the following point brought up in an email.

“If he doesn’t have any power how can he propose vouchers  and teacher accountability? To believe his statement would mean he has no control over multi-billion department. Further there would be no need for the Senate and assembly education committee.”

That is a good point. Vouchers, one could argue, is a budget concern which is part of the legislature’s and governor’s purview.  Teacher accountability on the other hand… if the legislature and governor can direct this there isn’t any reason they can’t impact standards and assessments.  If I were a Wisconsin resident I’d want the Legislature to challenge Evers on this even if it does mean a lawsuit.  As was mentioned in a different email, Evers is not an emperor.