Wyoming Legislature Sends Jackson School Bill To The Governor

Feb 26, 2019

Steve Friess confers during House Debate.
Credit Bob Beck / Wyoming Public Radio

The Wyoming House of Representatives has given final approval to a bill that will allow a private school to be built in Teton County without interference from local officials.

If the governor approves the bill the Jackson Hole Classical Academy can move forward with plans to build a new campus as long as it follows similar guidelines required of public schools.

Steve Friess asked for the legislation after he said all local solutions to expand the school were exhausted. Since he is the son of former gubernatorial candidate Foster Friess, that added a political twist to the debate.

Jackson Representative Andy Schwartz noted that the legislation was one of a handful of bills challenging Teton County zoning decisions. He said this could lead to future problems.

"We are encouraging people in Teton County who don't get the result they want from County Commissioners to say that's fine. Cause I don't care about representative democracy, I can appeal it to the state legislature," he said.

Gillette Representative Scott Clem said this bill was about protecting the rights of a private school.

"In this particular school in this particular instance, his is a desperate attempt to simply exist," Clem explained.

He added private schools need to be on par with local schools, but Pinedale Representative Albert Sommers said that's not happening.

"It really is about local control, and it also is if you want the same rights as public schools, you need to have the same responsibilities and those private schools don't even have the responsibility to have graduation requirements that are the same as every public school in Wyoming," he said.

The bill keeps all counties from using local zoning regulations when it comes to private schools and was opposed by the County Commissioners Association. The bill now heads to the governor for his consideration.