An arm of the conservative John Birch Society reportedly paid to have experts testify against the Common Core academic standards at public hearings around the state. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the John Birch affiliated American Opinion Foundation paid to have a former Bush administration education official and other academic experts speak for themselves at hearings held in October in Wausau, Eau Claire, and Fond du Lac following an initial hearing in Madison. The American Opinion Foundation said local residents raised $5,500 to cover expenses.
That was enough to make Representative Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) quit the Assembly’s special committee on Common Core standards. Sinicki said she could not serve on a panel “that has involved the most extreme national interest groups on education in planning and executing official Legislative hearings.”
Assembly panel chairman Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) said the hearings were “absolutely on the up and up.” He said school representatives got taxpayer funding to testify.
Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) was also critical. “What’s new here is the clear attempt to hide who they are representing and who is paying their way,” he told the Journal Sentinel.
Thiesfeldt said the select committee members will now work on producing a report and recommendations. Cullen believes that may mean recommendations to delay further implementation of the Common Core standards, or to change them.
Both chambers of the legislature formed study committees after tea party critics called Common Core a vehicle for a federal takeover of education, but the chairs of the educaition committees in the Assembly and Senate, Representative Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake) and Senator Luther Olson (R-Ripon) declined to participate.
Wisconsin was one of the first states in the nation to adopt the standards three years ago, and teachers and administrators from school districts across the state testified that they have generally been pleased with the standards.