House committee passes bill to transfer duties of Superintendent of InstructionBy Gregory Nickerson — January 22, 2013
The House Appropriations Committee unanimously passed Senate File 104 after hearing nearly two hours of public testimony Tuesday evening. The legislation would transfer duties of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to an appointed director.
Committee members listened attentively and asked questions, but the testimony did not seem to influence their votes. The bill now goes to the House for three rounds of debate.
Those who testified came from many corners of the state. Recent high school graduate Parker Jackson delivered a pointed criticism of the bill, calling it, “an easy way out for members of the legislature who wish that someone else had won the election.”
Jackson’s comments received a round of applause from opponents of the bill listening to an audio feed in a room upstairs from the proceedings. Jackson is an intern for Rep. Allen Jaggi (R-Lyman).
Rae Lynn Job, a former Senator education administrator in Rock Springs, spoke in favor of the measure. She noted that the administrators of the Department of Health and the Department of Family services are both appointed officials. “We need to hire the best person we can,” she said.
The transfer of administrative duties from an elected official has precedent in Wyoming. According to committee member Rep. Sue Wallis (R-Recluse), the state removed duties from the elected state auditor in the late 1980s.
Former Wyoming Department of Education employee Roger Clark also spoke against the bill. He named several instances in which Department of Education superintendents Trent Blankenship and Cindy Hill disregarded the directives of the legislature.
“Apparently the Superintendent of Public Instruction can pick and choose what legislation she wants to pursue, which is not an option for members of the executive branch in our government,” he said.
Following testimony, Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Harshman (R-Casper) quickly worked through the bill with his fellow committee members. They offered no changes and unanimously passed the bill 7-0.
Upstairs from the committee room, Becky Vandeberghe of WyWatch Family Action immediately emailed an update on the vote to members of her group.
The speed of the bill’s passage comes after months of extensive deliberations by interim committees and endorsement from Senate leadership.
Up to this point the House co-sponsor of the bill and Education Committee Chairman Rep. Matt Teeters (R-Lingle) has stood on the sidelines of the debate. Now that the bill has moved to the House floor Rep. Teeters will likely lead discussion on the bill.