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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Walker’s Pandering on Common Core Standards

Issue of the Week

Scott Walker
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Last week, Gov. Scott Walker decided to cause a stir when he released a one-sentence statement calling for the state Legislature to repeal the Common Core State Standards in January 2015.

Walker’s message was short and sweet but it had nothing to do with education policy. Rather, it was all about shoring up his conservative base before heading into November’s election and staying relevant on the national scene.

Common Core State Standards are the latest target of the right wing, which opposes national efforts to create standard student achievement goals across the country. (Some progressives oppose Common Core as well, but for different reasons that certainly don’t trouble Walker.)

Part of the conservatives’ ire toward Common Core is hatred of President Obama and paranoia about “big government” imposing some national standards on Wisconsin and creating a “managed economy.” They’re also worried about the loss of local control and the threat Common Core poses to voucher and Catholic schools. Despite the fact that it should raise the education standards in Wisconsin and enable our graduates to be more competitive as they apply to higher education institutions, Walker is willing to sacrifice all of that to further his political ambitions. Unfortunately that has been all too common a pattern during Walker’s three and a half years in the governor’s chair.

The Obama administration didn’t create the Common Core, but it encouraged states to sign on to it. The Common Core was developed by academics, education policymakers and other successful educators, including many from Wisconsin, and championed by the National Governors Association, which can’t be too radical, since Walker himself currently sits on the NGA’s executive committee

There are of course some questions about the new standards, as there are with any new initiative, and there will likely be some rough patches as the program is implemented. But Wisconsin educators have solidly supported the Common Core and even Republican legislators—and Walker himself—chose to fund Common Core’s implementation in the state. That was before the right-wing blowback became critical and Walker’s re-election bid heated up, of course.

Now, tea partiers and some—but not all—Catholic schools are rejecting the Common Core and pushing Walker farther to the right. Walker can’t lose his base before the November election by seeming squishy on the Common Core, nor can he seem less-radically right-wing than other presidential contenders who’ve rejected the Common Core, such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Walker, who never completed his college degree and made historic cuts to public education at all levels, shouldn’t be seen as a trusted expert on education policy. Unfortunately Walker’s recent epiphany on the Common Core is a cheap campaign stunt meant to keep his name in the headlines—and keep his conservative base solidly behind him at the expense of Wisconsin students.