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Plan to Let Districts Opt Out of Common Core Floated by Wis. Lawmakers

UPDATED

Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker announced last year that he wanted the state to repeal the Common Core State Standards. Fresh off his third election victory in four years, and with newly enlarged Republican majorities in the legislature, Walker seemed well-positioned to see his wish come true.

But now it's not so clear what lawmakers will do. As Matthew DeFour at the Wisconsin State Journal reports, Republican legislators have moved to "soften" their anti-common-core stance, and now say that any bills dealing with the standards would allow districts to keep the standards if they choose. 

"If (school districts) like the standards, they can keep them. But I think we want to make sure that nobody feels compelled," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican like Walker, told DeFour.

UPDATE: Just a few days after Vos' remarks, Walker himself seems to be backing off his earlier call for a full repeal of the standards and siding with state lawmakers. The Associated Press reported Dec. 17 that the governor wants districts to have the choice of using or not using the common core. 

A spokeswoman for the governor maintained to DeFour that Walker still wants the standards gone. Remember, during the state's 2014 legislative session, Walker tried to initiate a review of the common core in Wisconsin, but was unsuccessful, following a big push by state Superintendent Tony Evers and others to keep the common core in place. 

Wisconsin is slated to administer the common-core aligned Smarter Balanced test in grades 3-8 this school year (and the ACT in high school). A system in which districts adopt different standards but are required to take the same statewide test in English/language arts and math could make the state's testing plans much more complicated. 

The idea of the common core as a "local option" for districts isn't new. In Alabama's 2014 session, GOP Sen. Scott Beason introduced a bill that would have allowed districts to opt out of using the standards and pick their own. Somewhat confusingly, that legislation also prohibited the state board and local districts from acting "in furtherance of the common core curriculum beyond the currently adopted common core subjects" beginning in 2017. (The common core is not a curriculum, and covers only English/language arts and math.)

The extent to which Walker actually pushes against the common core in 2015 will be watched closely on a national scale, given his possible presidential ambitions. Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal is another possible Republican contender for the White House in 2016, and along with Walker is perhaps the most high-profile GOP governor fighting the standards who hasn't already gotten them tossed out. 

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