WAUSAU - Teachers started putting Common Core standards to work in Wisconsin classrooms three years ago.|
No one really seemed to pay attention – Wisconsin had adopted the standards along with 44 other states, in part to qualify for billions of dollars in federal Race to the Top grants.
But in the last few months, legislators from Wisconsin and other states started looking more closely at Common Core.
Governor Scott Walker told reporters in late September he believed Wisconsin could do better than federal Common Core standards.
Over the last few weeks, special Senate and Assembly committees have held four public hearings to decide if that's true.
The last of those four hearings happened in Wausau Wednesday, with testimony lasting more than seven hours.
The debate about Common Core, across the nation and in Wausau, has been marked by a different kind of bipartisanship – it's not liberals on one side, conservatives on the other. Both sides are both for and against the standards.
Michael Petrilli is the executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.
He spoke in favor of Common Core standards.
"There [are] plenty of Republicans who like the idea of higher standards and tougher accountability," Petrilli said. "From our perspective, the Common Core standards are exactly that."
Pete Biolo, a retired teacher and the vice chairman of the Oneida County Republican Party, doesn't necessarily disagree with that. He takes issue with Common Core because of federal involvement.
"It's a process or a program that has its roots at the federal level, and the federal government, in passing it, made federal monies available," Biolo said. "Any time you have federal monies available to something, you have strings attached."
Petrilli rejects that idea.
"I think the benefits of having better standards, better tests, outweigh those concerns," Petrilli said.
Biolo disagrees, and wants Wisconsin to create its own set of standards, to get the federal government out. Governor Walker has also recently said the state could do better on its own.
"If the governor can do better than these standards, I think that's great," Petrilli said. "I think what he would find is if he went through the process of recreating standards, they'd come out quite the same as the Common Core."
The Senate and Assembly's special committees are expected to make a recommendation in November about what Wisconsin should do about Common Core.