The time has come for complete clarity on the key decisions facing the Wyoming legislature. Through the smoke screen of “missed deadlines,” “professional development funding,” “accountability models,” or unhappy staff at a birthday party, we see that this is not about me as your present Superintendent of Public Instruction, but rather about the future of education in Wyoming. A full examination of the real evidence within the MacPherson Report reveals these remain as unfounded allegations:
• I did not break the law
• I did not misuse funds
• I did not misuse the state plane.
• More detail can be found at http://wyofacts.com.
Nonetheless, it is important to note that the MacPherson Report does not even address the spurious claims raised by a few legislators to push forward SF 00104 in the first place: claims that deadlines were missed, allegations that accountability requirements were ignored, and accusations that improper professional development activities authorized by law were improperly continued. These remain inaccurate.
So why the fervor to oust me and to replace me with an expensive bureaucrat at a substantial cost to taxpayers? I believe it is about our future.
Since at least 2009 the state has been in a rush to federalize Wyoming’s educational system. Some would have Wyoming adopt all directives of the United States Department of Education (USDE) and completely abandon Wyoming leadership. Others see things differently: the future of Wyoming youth depends upon communities, parents, teachers and students to care, work, adjust, and learn. This effort cannot be forged in the furnace of a federally-conceived future.
When running for this office I promised four things to the Wyoming people:
1. Improve instruction.
2. Be fiscally responsible.
3. Expect commitment from those working with the children.
4. Use reliable, trustworthy measures of progress.
These four goals are antithetical to the current educational monolith wielding power and authority—however improper—to harm me, and in the end to harm the Wyomingites I represent.
Let me give you examples of my pursuit of these four goals for your clear understanding:
I am criticized for working directly with a Wyoming district to raise its overall reading achievement by 2.8 years during a sixty day period. Why you ask? Because it did not involve purchasing expensive programs or paying high-priced consultants to rush to the district, then flee in advance of the next round of testing. No one will get rich by merely rolling up our sleeves and working one-to-one with struggling readers. And, these youngsters gained an extraordinarily valuable life-long skill.
II. Fiscal Responsibility
Contracts are critical to the state agencies. At the WDE, I reviewed contracts. I cut them. I demanded performance. The result has already saved the state millions of dollars. What contractor wants to hear that we don’t require outside contractors to direct us in educating our children? It looks like the monolith of corporate education is threatened when the kids grow.
III. Commitment to Children
We have a well-trained corps of teachers. We can help them improve with commitment. Professionals care about results and I continue to work to improve the teaching profession at every moment. Again, this is not necessarily expensive. We could bring in high-priced consultants, but to produce the greatest results we need successful practitioners to share their methods, their tips, their secrets with other professionals. We do not need a factory approach designed by the USDE. This process is not easy and requires committed and respected professionals at the helm of each classroom. I will always advocate for our committed teachers because they have direct impact on our children.
IV. Measures we trust
The legislature has not held the assessments steady. What is the target? How can we hit a target that constantly changes? The adoption of the Common Core State Standards moves us toward a common curricula, common assessments, data collection, and ultimately standardization of education by the federal government. I worry this will grow federal and state government and be expensive to taxpayers. But more importantly I worry that deferring to the USDE on these issues will strip us of our uniqueness, our identity, and our ability to share the great gifts of Wyoming’s intellect with the rest of our national family. I want each child to be celebrated as an individual rather than as a comparative statistic on a national scale.
If you agree with me, I trust you will act accordingly. If you prefer to turn over the future of Wyoming students to bureaucrats in D.C., please explain your reasoning to Wyoming people. They deserve an answer.