Wisconsin Republicans face backlash over support for Common Core


By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Republican lawmakers who supported the national Common Core academic standards are starting to face blowback from party members back in their districts.

Sen. Olsen, R – Ripon, faces a “public flogging” from party members for his support of the Common Core.

Members of the GOP’s 2nd, 4th and 6th Congressional District caucuses passed resolutions declaring “no confidence” and “no support” of Sen. Luther Olsen of Ripon and Rep. Steve Kestell of Elkhart Lake, chairmen of the Senate and Assembly committees on education, respectively. Olsen and Kestell represent portions of the 6th Congressional District.

“These resolutions are not binding resolutions; nobody is going to fire them from GOP,” said Michael Murphy, vice chairman of the Republican Party’s 4th Congressional District. “It does show the party does not support what they are doing.”

“It’s more of a public flogging, if you will, from our delegation,” he said.

Specifically, the votes come after Olsen and Kestell blocked GOP reform of Common Core, a national set of education standards requiring new curriculum, classroom resources, multi-state standardized tests and increased student data gathering.

The issue is becoming a litmus test for Republicans, especially among their tea party constituency, this primary season. Both the state and national Republican Party platforms reject Common Core standards.

The two Wisconsin lawmakers failed to schedule public hearings on Common Core required in the state budget. Instead, it was only after Gov. Scott Walker publicly supported holding the hearings that Republican leadership formed new committees to schedule them.

Those hearings resulted in a bill that would create an academic standards board that could over time adopt new standards and periodically review them. The bill would remove that power from the state superintendent of public instruction, who currently has sole authority to adopt state standards.

Olsen told reporters moments before the bill’s hearing that the bill didn’t have the support of a handful of Republicans in the Senate, but failed to name any of those senators.

Some Republicans, like Murphy, felt Olsen’s maneuvering in the press was to slight Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, who supported a full repeal of Common Core.

On Saturday, the Republican Party’s state resolution committee will meet to decide which resolutions should make it to the state convention for a full party vote.

Contact Ryan Ekvall at rekvall@watchdog.org, 608-257-1382 or follow him on Twitter @Nockian.