The University of Wyoming could have a voice on the State Board of Education if the Legislature passes a proposed bill in its upcoming general session.
The Wyoming Joint Education Interim Committee voted Nov. 14 to sponsor a bill adding an ex-officio, non-voting member from UW to the Wyoming State Board of Education, similar to a position held by ex-officio members such as Jim Rose, executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission.
Laramie’s Pete Gosar is the board’s chairman.
He said the board was interested in having a UW representative to help craft better policy for public education in Wyoming.
“I think ultimately the idea is to do things as well as can be done and (the board) thought the university is a critical piece to crafting that policy,” Gosar said.
In trying to develop effective policies, Gosar said the board thinks its focus should expand to pre- and post-K-12 education. Gosar said public education policies such as science standards affect how students perform when they enter higher education institutions, so it’s important to look at how they’re taught in Wyoming’s public schools.
“Those seniors go somewhere, and hopefully, it will be to the community colleges or to the university, so it does matter what’s taught in K-12, and it’s important what’s taught in pre-K for kindergarten teachers and getting kids ready,” he said. “I think this is just a collaborative hope from the board to make better policy and be a more effective board.”
Because many of the teachers in Wyoming schools graduate from UW, Gosar said effective communication between public schools and the university could return better outcomes that last through students’ entire educational careers.
“The university trains the professionals that fill the K-12 — they’re the only teacher-training four-year college in the state — they could help when you’re setting standards or when you’re trying to decide on assessments and help on deciding on systems of support,” he said. “When we have an agreement on that topic, they can take it back to the classroom and now start training the teachers of tomorrow with these new skills so when they come out, they come out ready to go from day one. It just makes too much sense to oppose it.”
The bill would pass committee after the Legislature convenes in January, said Rep. David Northrup, R-Powell, House chair on the Joint Education Committee. But when it comes to both legislative bodies also supporting the bill, Northrup said it’s always possible it could run into opposition. Some members of the Legislature could want to see those entities remain in their respective silos, he said.
“There’s always somebody with some agenda out there,” Northrup said. “The people who like silos will not want to see this happen.”
However, Northrup said he thinks the bill has many positive attributes that would make a strong case to state lawmakers.
“I think the bill will really increase the education quality in Wyoming by getting everybody to talk and communicate, and therefore we can get everyone on the same page,” he said. “Not that the Legislature is trying to force it, but we’re doing everything we can to make it happen.”
Though the interim committee’s draft bill called for the dean of UW’s College of Education to be the representative on the board, Gosar said UW requested President Laurie Nichol’s office instead make the selection.
The requested change would be the best way for UW to assist the state on the board, Chad Baldwin, UW’s director of institutional education, says in an email.
“We requested the change to allow the most flexibility to best represent the university and meet the expectations of the state and the board,” Baldwin says. “While a representative from the College of Education may be the best representative on the board now, down the road a few years, the state (and its) board may have a need for a different representative from the university.”
The board long wanted a UW representative at the table, but Gosar said it really started when former interim dean of the College of Education Michael Day would attend meetings in years past. He said starting with the dean was a natural place to start, but the board is looking forward to having whoever could represent UW present.
“Quite honestly, from our perspective, as long as the person is willing to engage and bring the ideas from the university forward, it doesn’t matter much to us who it is,” Gosar said. “It just would be nice to have someone there participating and carrying our thoughts back to the university and bringing back their thoughts.”