An unwise and highly partisan effort that threatens to undo years of hard work to establish a nationwide set of academic standards may be dying in the state Senate
. Good riddance.
Senate Bill 619
calls for creation of a new state academic standards committee, which would be populated by political appointees (Gov. Scott Walker would get six picks alone). The committee would be charged with reviewing the Common Core State Standards that already are being put into place in Wisconsin. The board also would make recommendations about how to rewrite the standards.
The Common Core standards were completed in 2010 and have been adopted by 45 states, Washington, D.C., four territories and the Department of Defense schools. They were the creation of a bipartisan group of state school superintendents and governors. The aim: Create a national set of expectations for students from one state to another. This state bill threatens to undermine that effort.
State Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, told the Associated Press that at least five Republican senators have indicated they are opposed to the bill, meaning getting to the 17 votes needed for passage might be a stretch.
Tea party Republicans around the nation have tried to make the standards controversial, sometimes by making wildly erroneous claims, including that the standards include sex education guidelines or that the standards might lead to retinal scans of students.
Walker's staff wrote the bill, which is backed by state Sens. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee). Vukmir and Farrow are skeptical
of the federal government's involvement in the standards and have said Wisconsin needs more than a "one size fits all" approach. Those may be reasonable concerns, but the bill they are pushing is a step backward and threatens the entire project. Worse, it would politicize the process needlessly.
A major problem under the failed No Child Left Behind law was the varying standards from one state to the next, with each state setting the bar to its own liking. American students, meantime, are being outpaced by some of their peers in other nations. The answer is a common set of academic standards. Common Core provides that. Wisconsin should continue implementing these common-sense standards and leave politics out of it.