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Panel advises changes in education duties

Dec 13, 2012 - The Associated Press

The action comes amid an ongoing rift between State Superintendent Cindy Hill and legislators.

CHEYENNE -- State public schools Superintendent Cindy Hill said her agency has done its job and is fully behind education reform efforts, but members of a legislative committee weren't convinced as they recommended stripping the Wyoming Department of Education of a host of education accountability duties on Wednesday.

The Select Committee on Education Accountability recommended legislation that transfers a number of the agency's education accountability duties to the state Board of Education. It also added provisions that the schools superintendent no longer be able to cast a vote on the board and that new money for the education reform effort go directly to the state board instead of through the department.

"It looks like our role in the accountability process will be substantially reduced," John Masters, the department's accountability leader, said.

The action comes in the wake of criticism by consultants on how Hill's department has performed in implementing Wyoming's new education accountability law.

The committee also recommended a separate bill that delays implementation of components of education accountability by up to several years. The bills will go before the full Legislature, which convenes in January.

Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody and co-chairman of the committee, said the committee is determined to see education reform through.

"This is a Legislature that's committed to the accountability and education act," Coe said. "... We're going to make sure it gets done. We're going to make sure it gets done properly."

Over the last few years, lawmakers have worked to overhaul the state's public schools after some questioned whether Wyoming was getting adequate results for the amount of money it spends on education. The Legislature has passed laws to establish a system measuring progress of student academic growth and grade public schools.

Earlier Wednesday, Hill testified before the committee after requesting time to rebut a critical report by consultants hired by the Legislature. They found a number of failures and miscues by her agency on education reform.

Hill said her agency was fully behind the accountability effort and was meeting its obligations.

However, she did not directly address the consultant report even though her agency filed a 541-page response this week that disputed the report's criticisms.

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