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Guest Commentary: Staying off the bus: a response

Modified: Wednesday, Jul 10th, 2013

The Casper Star-Tribune editorial board recently published an editorial piece entitled, “The other F-Word.” The F-word to which the piece was referring was “federal” – meaning federal control over education. While I am reluctant to respond to the editorial, I want to take a moment to address an issue raised.

The Casper Star-Tribune authors assert that my concern about federal control over Wyoming’s education is nothing more than a “distraction,” “diversion” and “scare tactic.” Although some may not be overly concerned about a loss of state and local control over education, I refuse to ignore what I view as a subtle and incremental, but very real, attack on states’ rights and local control.

Over the past months, I have struggled to understand why some high-ranking individuals in our state government and bureaucracy have made it their focus to marginalize and harm me. Surely these efforts are not related to my work as Wyoming Superintendent, as our state saw unprecedented growth and successes during my two years in office. So what was the motivation? Only recently has the intent of my detractors become clear.

Shortly before SF104 came to light, Senator Hank Coe was quoted saying, “Clearly we took some stuff away from them today. Get on the bus, or we will do something else.”

At the time Senator Coe made that comment, I was not sure what he meant by “get on the bus.” After the passage of SF104, his comments and intent have become clear. The bus to which he was referring is one headed to Washington, D.C. It is a bus driven by a few legislators, the governor and his advisors. That bus is headed to a faraway place where education standards, content, policies and practices are imposed on the children and people of Wyoming by individuals and groups with no personal interest or investment in the success of the children of our state. That bus is bound for a place where high-paid consultants, special interest groups and the federal government decide how schools should operate and what our children should be learning. When this bus stops, the children of Wyoming will be unceremoniously dumped at the indifferent feet of Washington, D.C. policymakers, contractors, consultants and bureaucrats.

I had to be removed because I stood in front of this bus. I stood in the way of this concerted and calculated effort to federalize/nationalize Wyoming education.

The Casper Star-Tribune asserted that there is no proof of such a plot. Let me provide some the most recent and obvious actions taken to further this agenda.

Days after signing SF104 into law, Governor Mead boarded a plane bound for Washington, D.C. to meet with federal education officials. The nature and purpose of this trip is unclear; however, shortly after returning, the governor’s newly appointed interim director of education engaged the federal government to initiate an effort to receive the federal NCLB waiver. I had resisted this action because I believed it was unnecessary and would cause Wyoming to become further subject to federal requirements, mandates and control. As we know, all agreements with the federal government come with strings and conditions.

Shortly after my removal, the new interim director of education and the State Board of Education further obligated the state to one of the national testing groups that are working toward developing and implementing a national test. This national test will replace Wyoming’s current test that is specifically developed to measure Wyoming standards and further Wyoming values and objectives.

Possibly the most telling action of all, however, was that the WDE employees who spoke out most strongly against me after I was removed are those working in the federal programs division at the WDE. This group of employees manages federal programs and is paid by the federal government.

Is there an agenda by some to allow the federal government and national influences to dictate education in Wyoming? I’ll let you decide.

Cindy Hill

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction

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