Milwaukee Catholic school parents blast Archdiocese's blessing of Common Core

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A group of Milwaukee-area Catholic school parents are fuming over the Archdiocese's decision to implement Common Core at its 110 parochial schools, and some are turning to home-schooling their children.

More than 1,000 parents have banded together and launched a campaign and online petition calling for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to reverse Archbishop Jerome Listecki’s move at the beginning of the year to implement the controversial, Washington-backed educational standards. Some told that they send their children to private schools precisely to avoid a secular curriculum they believe is infused with politics and dubiously researched lessons.

“If I wanted my children to have a public school curriculum I would have sent them to a public school,” Heather Schweitzer, of Kenosha, who recently pulled her daughters Mia, 9, and Chloe, 7, out of All Saints Catholic School and is now teaching them at home, told “A Catholic school’s priority is to prepare children for Heaven, not for college.”


The Common Core State Standards Initiative, an educational testing program begun by the nation's governors with the goal of making public education more uniform from state to state, has become increasingly polarizing this year. Critics say the standardized testing drives curriculum, and the entire program is undermining local control of what kids are taught. Some 45 states initially signed on, but Indiana and Oklahoma have since opted out and opposition to Common Core has increased as it is being rolled out around the nation.

Of the five parishes in the state of Wisconsin, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is the only one to adopt Common Core. The unusual move has led to speculation from some. Listecki insists that standards at the schools he oversees will not be changed by participating in Common Core.

“Our approach in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is no different than the approach of other bishops in the State of Wisconsin, namely, that each of us has a strong commitment to Catholic identity, and that commitment shines through boldly in our Catholic schools,” the Archbishop said in a statement provided to “Common Core standards are a reference, not a replacement for Catholic school standards. We are not “adopting” Common Core, but rather utilizing those standards, along with our own Catholic school standards, as a way of measuring the success of our students.”

The diocese addresses the controversy on its website, with a letter to parents, sample Common Core-aligned essays and questions and a list of what it calls Common Core "myths."

The parents, who have formed a loose coalition called “Milwaukee Catholic Parents Against Common Core,” and put together a petition that has garnered more than 1,000 signatures, according to education blog EAG news.

The coalition claims Common Core standards represent "untested, experimental standards that are threatening the independence of Catholic schools,” according to a statement. The group points out that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has said Common Core was developed for a public school audience and is "of its nature incomplete as it pertains to Catholic schools.”

Steve Becker, whose two children attend St. Alphonsus in Greendale, Wis., said Catholic schools have a track record of success and should not follow educational trends that have not been proven.

“It’s too much of a risky endeavor,” Becker told "Personally, I don’t understand why a Catholic school would go with secular standards designed for public schools.”

A meeting Becker had been promised this week with the Archdiocese’s superintendent of schools, Kathleen Cepelka, was canceled last Friday amid concerns the parents had taken their complaints public.

“[She] canceled the meeting because she felt that Mr. Becker had preempted the discussion and engaged the media on a story without giving her/us an opportunity to have a respectful dialogue concerning the implementation of Common Core Standards,” said a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Becker said he is disappointed the Catholic hierarchy would follow the public school trend.

“I would guess that they are doing it because it’s the next thing,” Becker said. “They are just aligning themselves with a trend in education.”