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Supt. of Public Instruction releases strategic plan but some industry experts say they weren't consulted

A small chalkboard sits on a desk with the word "education" written on it in capital letters. A pair of reading glasses and a red book with a pen resting on top sit next to it.
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Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder has released a strategic plan that will guide the department’s priorities during her term in office until 2027. Her priorities include preparing students for jobs through career and technical education, reducing bureaucracy and creating efficiencies, emphasizing what it means to be a good citizen, improving education outcomes through early literacy, enhancing parental empowerment and eliminating political bias, as well as valuing and supporting teachers.

“This plan has been in motion since even before taking office. What it's really based on are the conversations that I had during the campaign with thousands of education stakeholders all across the state, and so really putting all of those together into one centralized document where we can make sure that we're moving forward on actionable goals,” Degenfelder said.

The plan is set to go into effect immediately. She said the state’s education system should be reflective of Wyomingites and their needs.

“We do really well comparatively, with the NAEP [National Assessment for Educational Progress] assessment, we outperform most all states, that's a good thing,” Degenfelder said. “[But] that doesn't mean that we stop innovating, and we don't look at changing the status quo when it comes to education. Again, I believe our education system should be reflective of the Wyoming people. And we can improve on that, we can make sure that we're continually being more nimble and responding to those needs as we move forward.”

The plan also includes language that advocates for a statewide charter school support network, creating parent and student-level cabinets to help advise the Superintendent of Public Instruction, supporting, attracting, and retaining teachers, and a commitment to ensuring “divisive and inappropriate” concepts like Critical Race Theory aren’t being taught.

“These issues cannot wait, we have one chance when it comes to our students,” Degenfelder said. “Our cabinets have already met for the first time, we're really rolling up our sleeves and getting to work. And we want to make sure that we're working with the legislature in their interim, so that we're prepared for the upcoming legislative session, and that we're continually working with those school districts to make sure that we're in partnership.”

But the Wyoming Education Association (WEA) and the Wyoming School Boards Association (WSBA), both statewide K-12 education advocacy organizations, told the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle that they had no input in the drafting of the strategic plan. They said they are disappointed with language that is supportive of charter schools, while also expressing concerns over parental empowerment plans and language about removing political bias. Both organizations didn’t respond to Wyoming Public Media in time for publication.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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