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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 25, 2018

Common Core hasn't been repealed

Common Core is a set of standards for English and math unveiled in 2010 that came out of years of discussion between private nonprofit groups and state education departments. They were put in place in Wisconsin several months before Gov. Scott Walker was first elected in 2010.

Walker's pledge to repeal Common Core reflected opposition to the standards by many conservatives across the country, although the issue has largely died down since then.

Walker's 2015-'16 state budget reiterated what state law already provided: that no school board is required to adopt Common Core. But the budget did not repeal the standards.

And no repeal action has been taken up since then.

Amy Hasenberg, a gubernatorial spokeswoman, told us Walker encouraged the state Department of Public Instruction to remove Common Core standards when the department created a plan to comply with what is known as the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

But again, that's not repealing Common Core.

We rate this a Promise Broken.

Our Sources

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher July 17, 2015

Complicated relationship with the Common Core continues

In September 2014, during the final weeks before he won re-election to a second term as Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker made a bold pledge about Common Core, the school standards that have roiled conservatives around the country.

He said he would repeal it.

But Walker, who has had a complicated relationship with Common Core, has never gone quite that far.

Common Core is a set of standards for English and math unveiled in 2010 that came out of years of discussion between private nonprofit groups and state education departments. They were put in place in Wisconsin several months before Walker was first elected in 2010.

In January 2015, we decided to test Walker on Common Core on our Flip-O-Meter, which we use to determine whether a politician has changed positions on an issue. We gave Walker a Half Flip. His position had shifted from tacit support of Common Core, to calling on the Legislature to repeal it, to saying he only wanted school districts not to be required to use it.

In February 2015, we rated Walker's pledge to repeal Common Core as Stalled. The state budget proposal he submitted that month reaffirmed the right of school districts to choose to use whatever standards they want. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described it in a news article, that was "largely a toothless proposal because districts already have that authority."

As we reviewed the promise again, Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick argued that Walker has kept his promise because the budget prohibits the state superintendent of schools "from requiring any school board to adopt or 'give effect' to any Common Core standard."

But as the Wisconsin State Journal reported in April 2015, the budget doesn't repeal the standards. Instead, it reiterates what state law already provides: that no school board is required to adopt them.

The same month, Walker himself essentially acknowledged as much -- though he resisted the idea that he hadn't put forth a repeal.

In an interview with the anti-Common Core Truth in American Education group, there was this exchange:

Question: "When you campaigned, you were campaigning on a repeal, and are now pushing, putting forth an opt-out."

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."

The interviewer wasn't convinced.

"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," he wrote.

The issue has continued to dog Walker.

In July 2015, several days before Walker announced his presidential run, The Daily Caller, an online publication that leans conservative, reported that Common Core opponents had released an open letter accusing Walker of pretending to repeal the standards while in fact doing nothing of the sort.

In short, Walker has more time to pursue repeal, but he hasn't done it yet. For now, our rating remains Stalled.

Our Sources

Email interview, Gov. Scott Walker press secretary Laurel Patrick, July 16, 2015

The Daily Caller, "Activists accuse Walker of 'playing games' with Common Core," July 7, 2015

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Problems swirl around new state test tied to Common Core standards," Feb. 9, 2015

Wisconsin State Journal, "Scott Walker says his budget repeals Common Core, but it only reiterates existing law," April 23, 2015

Truth in American Education, "Scott Walker: We effectively repealed Common Core in Wisconsin," April 29, 2015

By Dave Umhoefer February 10, 2015

As included in budget, approach is not as clear-cut as pledged

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted Feb. 9, 2015 that Gov. Scott Walker has a "complicated relationship" with the Common Core state education standards.

In his first term, Walker gave the standards tacit early approval then switched up abruptly in the summer of 2014 and issued an explicit call for their repeal, the story noted.

The reversal came amid some pressure from conservatives in Wisconsin and around the country.

During the 2014 governor's race, Walker made  a very detailed promise on how and when he would seek repeal of the standards.

Speaking to reporters in early September, Walker said he believes the Common Core guidelines do not provide state educators, civic leaders and parents with enough say in determining what children should be learning at each grade level, WKOW-TV in Madison reported.

"I think the people of the state should be in charge of decisions like that, not people from outside of the state," Walker was quoted as saying.

Here's the specific part: "The governor said he would include a repeal of Common Core as part of a broader package aimed at improving schools he will bring to the legislature in January if re-elected."

Soon after the election, Walker softened his language on Common Core.

By January 2015, he was saying only that he didn't want school districts required to use Common Core, we noted in giving Walker a Half Flip for his changing position.

Walker put various school initiatives in his 2015-17 state budget proposal, unveiled in February 2015, and one touched on Common Core -- but it stopped well short of calling for repeal.

His plan reaffirms the right of districts to choose to use whatever standards they want, the Journal Sentinel reported: "But that's largely a toothless proposal because districts already have that authority, and all but Germantown have decided to use Common Core."

In other words the standards were already optional.

Instead of moving to try to dump the standards, Walker is killing the examination that is tied to Common Core.

Does that amount to "repeal?"

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick argues it does, by making explicit school districts' freedom to choose.

But education researchers at a pro-repeal conservative think-tank, the Heartland Institute, said Walker's move was just a beginning.

"This move makes me question how serious Walker is about removing Common Core," wrote Heather Kays, a research fellow at Heartland. "The only way to truly remove Common Core is to repeal and replace the standards … Ohio's legislation could easily be used as a model."

Heartland senior fellow Bruno Behrend called it an "important first step."

We rate this promise Stalled.

Our Sources

WKOW-TV report, Sept. 7, 2014

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stories as noted

Interview with Laurel Walker, Governor's press secretary, Feb. 9, 2015

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