The Legislature's Joint Education Committee is moving forward with an effort to study alternative ways to manage the Wyoming Department of Education and will seek input from education stakeholders and the public in that process.
The Committee met in Casper Thursday and asked questions of an education policy consultant who will recommend new ways to run the department based on what other states are doing. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill recently returned to running the Department of Education after the state Supreme Court ruled that a law transferring her powers to a Governor-appointed Director was unconstitutional. But Committee Co-chair Hank Coe said the new effort to possibly change management of the Department is not about current Superintendent Hill.
"This isn't about going out and, you know, doing another witch hunt, whatever people want to call it. This is not an initiative or referendum from Senator Coe. This is to try to have a look at how other states are doing it—to try to see if we can come up with a governance structure that more fits appropriately—what we have—the real nature of our 48 school districts in the state of Wyoming."
Laramie Senator Chris Rothfuss said the committee should proceed cautiously. The Democrat said that a new structure won't necessarily solve all the state's education management issues.
"We can't just go with the next big thing that sounds like a good idea, uh, when other states have tried it and they've abandoned it. It really is a matter of going into this objectively, and not just listening to passionate speeches but trying to find some data."
The committee did approve a draft bill eliminating the position of Department of Education director and transferring those duties back to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Much of the Committee's conversation Thursday centered on how to best get a wide array of public input on the issue. They hope to develop draft legislation in time for the 2015 legislative session.