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Walker's Budget Makes Important Education Reforms

As Scott Walker tours the country on his campaign for the presidency, he has not forsaken his state, turning in a budget that would make important reforms in education policy. It’s beyond the scope of this piece to analyze the budget in full - it contains rather more spending and borrowing than most conservatives would like - but in the area of education reform it takes some pretty important steps forward.

Most importantly, the budget would prohibit the State Superintendent, a vocal proponent of Common Core, from advertising or promoting the standards to local school districts. This is important because, while school districts in Wisconsin are permitted to opt out of the standards, few have done so as a result from pressure from the Department of Public Instruction. Walker’s budget would relieve that pressure, and allow schools to determine their own destiny. Last July, Walker came out strong against the standards, saying “Today, I call on the members of the state legislature to pass a bill in early January to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set by people in Wisconsin.”

The reason most of the districts have adopted Common Core standards is because the statewide mandated tests are aligned with them. Walker’s budget calls for new tests, which would make it easier for schools to opt out without fearing failure on the tests.

In other parts of the budget, Republicans in the state legislature are taking education proposals farther than Walker originally intended. These include lifting caps on the number of school vouchers in the state and expanding the opportunity to open independent charter schools.

Not everything the legislature did was an improvement, though, with the rejection of some large spending cuts that would contribute towards balancing the state’s budget. After the amendment process is complete, the legislature will have to vote on the two-year budget and resubmit it to Gov. Walker for his signature.

These state-level reforms come just as the U.S. Senate prepares to consider a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The new bill, under the name The Every Child Achieves Act, would maintain federal testing mandates, but would also forbid the Department of Education from incentivizing or coercing states into adopting Common Core or similar standards. This would free up states like Wisconsin to ditch Common Core for good without having to worry about losing funding as a result. Until now, this has been the biggest hurdle for many states who would like to lose the standards, but feel unable to due to pressure from the federal government.

Tony Urso's picture
Tony Urso

1) 24 hours after Gov Walker issued the repeal statement, he pulled it back.
2) He directed the DOA to work with DPI to develop a RFP to replace the SBAC test in January. The new test is based on "Wisconsin Standards". The headfake is "Wisconsin Standards" are the renamed common core we've had for 5 years. See DPI's website. The RFP was released Friday June 5th.
3) DPI has made no bones about not listening to the legislature when they've directed them to do something. Yet somehow the Governor believes DPI will listen now? Anyone want to bet DPI will just follow through with administrative rulings - certainly not "advertising" and technically not "promoting". Are requirements on a test "promoting" or "advertising"? No, they're part of accountability as required by the Governor's budget. Anyone want to bet there will be confusion in those terms ending in a lawsuit? See # 9 for a teachers false choice.
4) Since Gov Walker IS embedding common core via next years test, how does expanding charters or vouchers help? The state will have strings attached to the funds expended. How is requiring a public school to take the mandated test different than requiring a charter/voucher school to take the mandated test?
5) April 22 explanation on Gov Walker's common core headfake:
6) His current budget adds funding for WorkKeys, "college and career" planning starting in 6th grade, and ADDS other tests. The bill, AB1, has been out since January.
7) His last budget added funding for common core. Yet Gov Walker states he wasn't really aware of common core until recently. Really?
8) Other than saying one thing and do another, what has he DONE exactly to repeal CC? He called for the repeal, then backed off that statement, he didn't push for a repeal bill as he stated he would do (or wouldn't, depending on which statement he made you believe), he actually expanded common core via next years tests, he embeds accountability via the tests against legislative wishes, he then expanded vouchers/charters and the test requirement to go along with that, thus bringing in common core to those programs.
9) Accountability: The failed accountability bills from the last two sessions were ADDED into the budget (rejected policy inserted into a financial document?). So now, as a teacher, part of your grade will be based on the child's ability to take the common core test. As a teacher, you have a "choice" not to teach what you're being graded on but do you really have the "ability"? Can't you hear the Orwellian Speak - you don't have to teach common core but you'll forfeit enough points to make a significant difference in our ability to retain you next year. But remember it's your choice, choose wisely. That's like giving a condemn man his choice of hanging, the firing squad or the guillotine. So what, same outcome.
10) SB67: Waiver of accountability report. The legislature decided to force the kids to take the test yet not release the results to the parents. They claim the tests are unreliable because the product delivered wasn't the product promised. The legislature knew this months ago yet proceeded. Now when the feedback from that test is available, it's buried. Why have the kids take the test? BTW: Speaker Vos KNEW of the problems, proceeded, now he wants to sue the testing company for non-performance.
11) Like the Vietnam war statement "We have to destroy this village in order to save it", Gov Walker seems to be under the assumption "We have to embed common core in order to get rid of it". Huh?

Should I keep going?