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.
Instead, she commented that it’s important that the state’s education reform effects have continuity and demonstrated a pilot model on school performance that her agency has been working on.
After Hill’s testimony, the legislative consultants said they stood behind their report but noted the reform effort was extremely difficult.
Reaction to Hill’s testimony from committee members varied from not being able to make sense of her response to hope that education reform efforts can proceed with new cooperation.
Rep. Matt Teeters, co-chairman of the committee, said it was just another part of a “bizarre” episode that has played out over the last month with Hill seeking time to rebut the consultant report but then not doing so and missing two deadlines to submit written comments to the committee.
“So I have no idea what’s going on,” said Teeters, R-Lingle.
Coe said some of the delays now occurring in implementing education reform were caused by the department not being able or willing to perform certain duties on time.
Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock, said he hoped the differences could be put aside and all entities work together to bring about reform to make students better prepared for college and careers.
“I think hopefully that we can all move forward and utilize the expertise from her department, from the Legislature, as well as the Board of Education as well as the consultants,” Anderson said. “And I think that we’re going to start moving forward.”
Hill said she appreciated Anderson’s comments.
“We all need to focus on the real work at hand,” she said. “That’s what our teachers and our educators, our parents and our communities are doing and that’s what we need to continue to do.”