Is Scott Walker a helpless victim of an all-powerful DPI superintendent???
There have been quite a few people claiming the Scott Walker and the legislature have done everything possible to repeal Common Core in Wisconsin. They claim that the governor and legislature are helpless victims of an “all-powerful” DPI superintendent and that their hands are tied with respect to repealing Common Core. This article will show that nothing could be further from the truth.
The state superintendent is not a god. He is not all-powerful. This continued insistence on the part of the governor and the state legislature that they are “victims” of Tony Evers and the DPI is utter nonsense. And, respectfully, no one in Wisconsin should be facilitating such excuse-making.
The state legislature is fully in a position of being able to set parameters around the authority of the state superintendent. It’s abundantly clear in Article X:
“Superintendent of public instruction. Section 1. [As amended Nov. 1902 and Nov. 1982] The supervision of public instruction shall be vested in a state superintendent and such other officers as the legislature shall direct; and their qualifications, powers, duties and compensation shall be prescribed by law.”
The state legislature makes the laws. If they wanted to take Tony Evers authority down to nothing, they could do that. The only thing they CANNOT do, as determined by case law, is to establish another education office of equal or greater authority. From the annotations to section 1:
“This section confers no more authority upon school officers than that delineated by statute. Arbitration Between West Salem & Fortney, 108 Wis. 2d 167, 321 N.W.2d 225(1982).
“The legislature may not give any “other officer” authority equal or superior to that of the state superintendent. Thompson v. Craney, 199 Wis. 2d 674, 546 N.W.2d 123 (1996), 95-2168.
“The legislature has the authority to give, to not give, or to take away the state superintendent’s supervisory powers, including rulemaking power. What the legislature may not do is give the the state superintendent a supervisory power relating to education and then fail to maintain the state superintendent’s supremacy with respect to that power. Coyne v. Walker, 2015 WI App 21, 361 Wis. 2d 225, 862 N.W.2d 606, 13-0416.”
We know—in fact, we have repeatedly seen—that when Governor Walker wants something out of the legislature, he gets it, including some incredibly sketchy policy. Take automatic collection of DNA on arrest, for example, in the last biennial budget. That passed with only one concerned comment on the floor from a Republican. Undermining constitutional and civil liberties was giving him heartburn, he said, but he voted for it anyway…right along with almost everyone else.
Or how about putting Wisconsin taxpayers on the hook for $250 million in that Bucks arena deal—a venture in which two of his major political contributors stand to gain, one of whom is now high up in his campaign staff.
Never mind his recent “leadership” on attempting utterly to gut open records law in this state. No denying, at this point, that the Governor’s Office led on that little maneuver. Every single Republican member of the Joint Finance Committee rallied to help him out with what can only be described as insidious language, quietly tucked into the 999 motion to the budget.
Scott Walker knows how to whip votes for whatever he wants to get done, not to mention anything he wants to stop dead in its tracks. People don’t like crossing him much. I’m hearing stories from legislators right now regarding recently introduced legislation—stories that would curl your hair. The governor outright bullies legislators when it serves him—usually sending his legislative liaisons to do his dirty work for him. Yes, he can get plenty done when he likes, however troubling his methods may be to me and others.
So, Governor Walker needs to cut the crocodile tears. And everyone else should stop believing them. If he’s so bothered by Tony Evers’ authority, he could absolutely ask his Republican friends in the legislature to draft a bill altering Evers’ authority over certain matters. He has done no such thing, and he will not. Evers is a convenient excuse and whipping boy for Walker. No more, no less. And why would legislators not act on their own to draft and pass such a bill? Because they know the governor wouldn’t sign it if they did.
The bottom line is that Governor Walker is a supporter of P-20 systems. Everything he has done since he got into office tells us that.
- He ensured money to fund the Statewide Student Information System (Legislators on Joint Finance have been directly quoted as saying they voted for the funding in the last biennial budget “because it was what the governor wanted”).
- He has ensured $1.1 million per annum in the last biennial budget and in this one to ensure that 6th-graders will all be writing “academic and career plans.”
- He funded ACT WorkKeys in this biennial budget.
- He insisted on having an “accountability” bill on his desk by the start of the new year, a task Republicans in the Assembly and Senate leapt to perform, despite the fact that “accountability,” then as now, was all tied to Common Core. When he couldn’t get the bills through on their own, he made sure much of the language from one of them was transferred into the budget, where it passed.
- He has already signed several School-to-Work-related bills during his tenure in office.
- He has expanded school vouchers, ensuring that greater numbers of private schools will fall under state “accountability” systems.
- He placed language in the budget that essentially weakens state homeschooling laws, opening loopholes that begin the process of making that community vulnerable to the same dangers as private schools. (For those who doubt me on this reality, one Wisconsin senator has basically told concerned constituents that the changes in homeschool law are being plainly discussed by those around him as a useful way to edge homeschoolers into a greater position of accountability to the state. So, I’m not simply conjecturing.)
- He has openly stated in at least one video-recorded interview that we should be more like Germany and other European nations in our approach to workforce development.
- His administration has continued to pursue Common Core-aligned tests despite defunding SBAC. In fact, we now know that language related to assessment mandates, which he vetoed in the budget, just somehow magically appeared during the budget process. It was not in there originally. No one seems to know where it came from. Walker’s vetoing of that language has made it look to many as though he did something that he actually didn’t….and that has caused dangerous confusion regarding his record on the matter.
We can go on, but we’ll leave it there.
Governor Walker is not interested in getting rid of Common Core. Governor Walker NEEDS Common Core as an integral piece of data collection and career-tracking. He is strongly committed to workforce development/P-20–if for no other reason because the campaign donors with whom he chooses to run want it. He is most definitely tight with the U.S. Chamber/Wisconsin Manufacturersand Commerce crowd.
If you wish to buy Governor Walker’s “victim” line, by all means, that is your right. But there is precious little evidence to support such a claim.