Democrats object to Common Core recommendations

  • Article by: SCOTT BAUER
  • Associated Press
  • December 12, 2013 - 6:40 PM

MADISON, Wis. — The Common Core educational standards will not lead to fingerprinting, retinal scans and the loss of student privacy, as some Republicans fear, Democrats said Thursday in defending the guidelines used in Wisconsin since 2010.

But Republicans who created and control a special Assembly committee that studied the standards approved a series of recommendations that could lead to legislation modifying or even rejecting the English and math standards.

Republicans also called for passing laws to protect student privacy and restrict the collection of student biometric data, including fingerprints, retinal scans and facial recognition.

Given that there are no reports of student privacy being compromised now, or the use of biometric data like retinal scans, Republicans are creating fear of a problem that doesn't exist, said Democratic Rep. Sondy Pope.

"This is almost like saying to the Wisconsin National Guard 'We're going to write a law to make sure you're not going to bomb Minnesota,'" Pope said. "We're not going to bomb Minnesota."

But Rep. Tom Larson, R-Colfax, said the Legislature needed to be proactive because of fast-moving technology the government possesses.

"They can turn on your Skype, your camera, without the little red light coming on," Larson said.

The overriding goal, Republicans said, was to make sure Wisconsin has educational standards that are specific to the state and not part of a national standard. The Common Core standards, which cover what students should know in the subjects of math and English, are voluntary and in place in 45 states.

"They did not originate in Wisconsin and I believe it is best for Wisconsin to have standards that originated in Wisconsin," said the committee's chairman, Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac.

But Pope said "Wisconsin-based standards" was just a "happy little slogan that pleases the extreme groups.

"What is Wisconsin-based educational standards? Based on beer? Based on cheese? Based on cows?" she asked. "I need to know who is going to define Wisconsin-based educational standards."

The Common Core standards have come under fire across the country, particularly from tea party conservatives. More than 60 tea party leaders in Wisconsin sent Gov. Scott Walker a letter last month urging him to "be the hero" and undo the standards. Walker has voiced support for having state-specific standards, but hasn't said he would support scrapping the Common Core.

Thiesfeldt said the recommendations could be turned into legislation for the Assembly to consider next year. A separate Senate committee is also reviewing the standards and could make separate recommendations.

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