The perceived wisdom across the country is that Republicans are the ones looking to block Common Core policies among the states. But in many cases it is Republicans that opponents of the education scheme have to surmount before stopping the policies. This is what activists in Wisconsin have found.
Parents and teachers that stand against Common Core in Wisconsin have found that Republicans in the state legislature have suddenly become an obstacle that they didn’t expect to have to face down as a bill to dump Common Core standards has stalled in Madison and activists have identified several key Republicans as the reason.
A recent piece in the New American reported that the legislature has had “rigged hearings” on Common Core that have ended in stalemate instead of progress toward eliminating the standards. Specifically, insiders charge that Senate Education Committee Chairman, state Sen. Luther Olsen, had run the debate in a way “aimed at creating the false impression of public support for Common Core.”
Olsen is being accused of bungling the debate causing the discussion to stall.
“About two hours prior to the hearing, the Senate education chair had announced through the Associated Press that there were five GOP Senators opposed to the bill,” said state Rep. Thiesfeldt in a phone interview with New American. “That gave the appearance that this had no chance of passing.”
Sen. Olsen disputed claims that the hearing was rigged. “For people to say that I showed bias, it’s like, guys, get in the real world,” he said. “This was a very fair, respectful hearing, and we never shut anybody down.”
Regardless of what Senator Olsen’s intentions are or aren’t, it seems clear that the whole discussion has ground to a halt and no further movement will occur in Wisconsin during this legislative session. The result is that opponents of Common Core feel that it is the state’s GOP that is a sudden hurdle to jump on the way to eliminating the unwanted education policy.
Wisconsin doesn’t seem to be the only state having problem Republicans. In Florida an entire array of powerful Republicans led by former Governor Jeb Bush are charging hard in support of the Sunshine State’s own version of Common Core. Elimination of Common Core has stalled there, too.
Georgia is debating a new bill that supporters claim will put a curb on Common Core, introduces transparency to its adoption, and holds the policy to account with lawmakers. But opponents feel that the bill just puts the standards in place only with a promise to have them “slowly” ramped down. They also doubt that any ramping down will ever occur. Opponents also see Republicans there as an obstacle.
Iowa found such opposition to its Common Core policy ideas that Governor Terry Branstad (R) was forced to change the name of the program in an effort to re-brand it and distance it from the unpopular policy’s moniker. Critics, however, say that Hawkeye State Republicans only changed the name of the program and left all the bad parts untouched. Governor Branstad also seems to be sending a mixed message on the policy.
It might be instructive to note that Branstad appeared at the ALEC meeting in Chicago last year and spoke about Iowa’s education policy right before a keynote speech by Jeb Bush who also spoke at length on the efficacy of Common Core.
A similar thing occurred in Arizona where Republican Governor Jan Brewer recently renamed her state’s Common Core policy without doing much else to it. Other GOP controlled states have also done this.
It seems that the tact that state Republicans that support Common Core are taking is to claim they are standing against federal control of education, standing against data collection on their students, and insisting on state control of educational standards. This is presented as resistance to Common Core. However, even as they take these proper and principled stands on the one hand, on the other they are making no efforts to prevent the exact same programs created by Common Core-pushing organizations in Washington from becoming state policy.
So, while they claim to be against Common Core, in many cases they are really only against the federal government being in charge of Common Core even as they still want the same standards put in place in their state, just under their own control instead of Washington’s. It seems that despite the assumption that Republicans oppose Common Core, the truth is a bit more complex.
Common Core opponents might be best advised to look closely at their local Republican officials and find out for sure if they really oppose Common Core at all.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org