MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The Wisconsin state chamber of commerce spoke out Monday in support of Common Core academic standards that have drawn criticism from some conservatives in the state Legislature and calls for changes from Gov. Scott Walker.
The unusual move from Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, a group that heavily backs Walker and other Republicans, comes after Walker two weeks ago told educators at a state meeting that he wants to create a commission to review and recommend changes to the standards.
Jim Morgan, president of WMC’s educational division, said in Monday’s statement that the standards “have given local communities a common purpose, the states a common goal and our country a tool to ensure our long-term success.”
“The Common Core makes common sense for Wisconsin’s school districts,” Morgan said.
Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson issued a statement that did not directly address Morgan’s comments.
“Governor Walker is working with members of the Legislature in both chambers to craft legislation creating a process that would develop Wisconsin-based model academic standards,” Evenson said. “These standards will be rigorous and tailored to Wisconsin’s history of high achievement and the expectations of parents and educators. The process will allow public input and open discussion.”
A spokesman for the state Department of Public Instruction, which has worked with schools on adopting the standards, welcomed the support from the state’s largest and most powerful business group.
“We appreciate the WMC stance, which echoes the sentiments of educators, school leaders, and other business community members who overwhelmingly stand in support of the college and career ready standards that we have adopted with the common core,” said DPI spokesman Patrick Gasper.
The standards are in place in 45 states and were adopted in Wisconsin in 2010 by state Superintendent Tony Evers. They outline what students should know in the subjects of math and reading and most schools have adopted them. New state tests next school year are based on the standards and will be used to report student and school achievement on report cards.
But there’s been a backlash against the standards, particularly among tea party conservatives, leading to a series of bills in the Legislature to either make modest changes or to outright repeal them and start over.
Walker last month said he wants to create a commission to review the state’s standards and recommend changes to Evers, the state superintendent.
Walker said he hoped the standards that would come out of that process are “higher and more rigorous than the ones that are being talked about nationally.”
Business leaders, both in Wisconsin and nationally, were deeply involved with the creation of the current Common Core standards along with a bipartisan group of governors, school leaders and others.
Morgan, in the statement Monday, said Wisconsin businesses and employers have been asking for accountability and measurement in schools for more than 25 years. He said the Common Core standards will provide consistency across the state, more accountability and innovation and increase quality.