The Legislature’s Joint Education Committee voted 7 to 5 Wednesday in favor of a constitutional amendment that would ask voters to change Wyoming’s schools chief from an elected position to an appointed one.
The vote technically remains open until two absent legislators cast proxy votes. If the Committee passes it on to the full Legislature, the bill will need two-thirds of both the House and Senate to approve it before the amendment would land on the 2016 ballot for voters to decide.
Voters wouldn’t actually be deciding on a new structure for governance of Wyoming’s K-12 schools, but simply throwing out the old one and inviting lawmakers to craft something new. In a recent report, consultants said there was a clear need and desire for a new system—and suggested three possible options.
Chairman Hank Coe says the conversation with consultants has been helpful, and he’d like it to continue.
“The only way we can continue that discussion is to have a bill to be able to discuss it about,” says Coe. “Obviously the first step is a constitutional amendment. This doesn’t mean we’re all in favor of going out there and taking option one, option two, or option three—or doing away with the current system.”
Opponents of the bill say it would have a better shot on the ballot if it actually proposed a new governance system.
Representative Albert Sommers is among those who voted against the bill. He says it would ask voters to throw out the current system before offering a fully-fledged alternative.
“Basically, if you just bring a straight amendment, the people don’t understand what’s going to follow that amendment,” says Sommers. “They don’t understand what governance structure is going to be created—whether that’s a governance structure they’re comfortable with. It doesn’t give the electorate a real understanding of what comes next. So I think it’s an incomplete bill.”
Sommers and other opponents moved to create a task force to further investigate the governance issue, but the motion failed.