News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Derailing a superintendent
Jan 20, 2013 - By Randy Tucker
The move to usurp the voice of the voters goes too far.
It's been an unprecedented two weeks to open the 2013 session of the Wyoming Senate. While personal disputes are commonplace in politics, this session took the personal vendetta to a new level with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill bearing the brunt of a grudge held by a few -- a very few -- state legislators.
As I've reported this situation, every legislator I spoken with or who has replied to e-mails has indicated that the issue primarily is personal, not policy.
While spurious statistics abound concerning the performance of the Wyoming Department of Education throughout the Capitol, the truth is that student scores are up, spending is down and the department has changed from just another bureaucracy fixated with mandates into one that is actively trying to improve education at the classroom level across the state. From what I hear, not a single detractor has bothered to actually look at the books or even to take a tour of the Hathaway building just a short walk from the capitol.
But then again, facts don't make the "good ol' boy" network very happy.
Senators and representatives I've been in contact with have all indicated that their e-mails and phone calls are resoundingly in support of retaining the present format for the WDE and against Senate Bill 0104 that would reduce the role of state superintendent to an honorary one with no official power.
Instead, that power would reside in an appointed education CEO, a position nominated by a board appointed by the governor that would then be approved by the same governor.
If you haven't noticed lately, the Legislature has taken a very active role in education -- not in actually educating children but in mandating how money is spent, how big classrooms can be, how many children can be packed into those rooms, and many other perfunctory items that surround education but that don't actually produce graduates who can read, write and calculate.
The legislators even passed legislation two years ago on how schools should handle bullies. Perhaps they should take their own advice and give themselves a little counseling and maybe a "time out" for this unprecedented bullying of Superintendent Hill, who won a resounding victory at the ballot box.
Prior to a court decision determining that each school district would be funded on a per-pupil basis on either a large-school or a small-school rubric, the 48 individual school districts in Wyoming varied greatly in funding.
An oil well, coal mine or gas field within a district made districts like Meeteetse and Gillette the wealthiest in the state and left Cheyenne, Laramie and Torrington scrambling for every dollar.
With the new funding model came the belief among the micromanagers in the Legislature that they knew best how to conduct a statewide K-12 system.
With their meddling came a litany of constant change -- ridiculous change just for change's sake, recommended by the same high-priced consultants who are now circling like vultures above a wounded animal to get a piece of the new "CEO" position.
Now, in an environment of constant upheaval, the same people who brought you the chaos want to re-invent education statewide just because a legislator or two with a lot of strings to pull are upset with the present superintendent.
State Sen. Hank Coe of Cody is seen as the prime mover in the drive to neutralize Hill. He is trying to orchestrate an event that would deny the people of Wyoming the right to have a voice in their children's education at the statewide, policy-making level.
He is an experienced legislator who has expertly played his "good ol' boy" card and gotten many other senators to fall in line, probably with the threat that the senior leadership will squelch any legislation proposed by those who don't comply with the plan to derail the superintendent.
Look for his young sidekick, State Rep. Matt Teeters, to try the same thing in the House.
The real message here is that Wyoming people are too stupid to elect their own leaders. The good ol' boys in the Legislature know best. This trend is centered in Cheyenne and Laramie, cities that much too often identity with Denver more than Deaver, Douglas or Dubois.
It's a short step from the present unwritten policy of not allowing anyone with a degree from Wyoming to serve as an administrator at UW, not recruiting Wyoming athletes to play for the Cowboys, and allowing out of state members on the UW Board of Trustees, to an eventual ban on anyone outside the elected elite from having a voice in their own state government.
As one friend put it, the legislation would replace a vibrant, child-centered woman with a dour bureaucrat in a gray suit who would rather stick pins in his eyes than actually work with a 9-year-old child.
Send your senators and representative a message that they "represent" your vote, they are not above it. If they don't respond let's stick a pin in each of them in the next election.