This bill would eliminate the election process for the office of superintendent of public instruction at the start of 2019. 2018 would be the first election cycle in which Wyomingites would not vote on a Superintendent of Public Instruction.
The Superintendent is an ex officio member of the UW Board of Trustees and the Board of Land Commissioners. No longer being an elected position, superintendent would no longer have ex officio seats on either board. The bill proposes that without a superintendent, the board of land commissioners would continue to exist, simply having dropped the superintendent as a member, and consist only of the governor, secretary of state, state treasurer and state auditor. The University board of trustees is required by rule to have 7 members, however, and it is unclear who would assume the vacated seat should the office cease to exist.
Wyoming Education Association president, Kathy Vetter was kind enough to answer some questions about education in the state and the possible future of the superintendent’s office.
WyPols: How might losing that top executive position affect the education system as a whole?
Pres. Vetter: I’m not sure how it would affect the system as a whole.
WyPols: Are there any examples from other states that Wyoming might use as a template for an education system without a superintendent?
Pres. Vetter: Well I know the Governance study put out a bunch of examples and different things that they could possibly do. They looked at all the different states and a number of different things that were out there. They all had pros and cons and I don’t know what they would put forth moving forward.
WyPols: Might eliminating this position be helpful for the students of Wyoming?
Pres. Vetter: I don’t know what they would do in place of it, it’s another crystal ball thing. I know one thing that would be helpful for the students of Wyoming would be to make sure that we have an external cost adjustment to make sure that our schools are funded so that all of our students can have a great education.
WyPols: Why do you think the committee is looking at dismantling the office superintendent?
Pres. Vetter: I’m not sure, but I would hope that they’re looking at what is best for the students of Wyoming and ensuring that we have a positive education system for all of the students in Wyoming.
WyPols: Do you think this bill is going to pass?
Pres. Vetter: I think this is going to garner a lot of debate on the floor of both houses, especially the one it starts in. And I’m excited to listen to that debate and see what comes forth. I can’t see into the future.
Two things are abundantly clear when looking at the environment in which this bill exists. First, the public likes the idea of voting for Superintendent (no matter how few of them actually turn out). Second, the legislature likes the idea of maybe possibly streamlining some of the legislative process slightly.
I think this bill is a toss-up, but leaning ever so slightly towards passage. With voter memories seemingly shorter than ever and an upcoming presidential election that will ensure a strong turnout for the Republican base in Wyoming, incumbents will feel a level of security even with some slightly unpopular votes on their records. I think this bill will pass, and the people who still read newspapers will be upset for a week or two until something else will catch the public attention this season.