CHEYENNE — Members of the Wyoming State Board of Education have concerns about proposed legislation that would make major changes to the board’s role.
House Bill 91 would establish the board as a separate operating agency of state government. It also would move four vacant employee positions and funds from the Wyoming Department of Education to the board and pay board members for their added duties in carrying out the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act.
The bill also would remove the state superintendent of public instruction as a voting member of the board. The superintendent would remain on the board as an ex officio member.
Members of the board expressed concerns about moving the board away from its traditional and statutorily-assigned role of making policy to taking on an administrative role that has been the responsibility of the Department of Education.
After the meeting, board member Ron Micheli said one reason for the concern in shifting historical responsibility is that it would be a duplication of efforts.
“I just don’t see the advantage of shifting the responsibility over to us,” Micheli said.
Members also discussed the time and logistics involved in hiring four people to start work under the board. While board members have concerns, they said they defer to the legislators and do not plan to take any stand on proposed legislation.
Board member Dana Mann-Tavegia said she always supported the superintendent being an ex officio board member, which is the way it was for many years. The current way can put the superintendent in a sometimes-difficult position, some board members said.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill, also a board member, was not present for the discussion of potential board changes. After the meeting, she noted it’s early in the legislative session. “We’ll watch and see what happens,” Hill said.
Board members also talked about a bill that proposes raising the age at which students can drop out of school from 16, or after 10th grade, to 18, or until they finish 12th grade. Several board members agreed with the bill. Board member Kathy Coon said students might try harder if they know they can’t look forward to dropping out after 10th grade.
Board member Hugh Hageman said forcing people by law often doesn’t work, and added that students who don’t want to be in school often disrupt those who do.
Board member Sue Belish said Hageman made some good points, and added that she hasn’t seen raising the age make a difference in other states.
The board also discussed a bill that would designate one of the appointed seats on the board to be a sitting member of a Wyoming district school board. Members said a school board member would provide a valuable perspective but several said it would be rare to find someone with time for both positions.
The 62nd legislative session opened Tuesday and runs through early March.