Wyoming lawmakers have education on their minds

2013-01-04T23:30:00Z Wyoming lawmakers have education on their mindsBy ELYSIA CONNER Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
January 04, 2013 11:30 pm  • 

CASPER, Wyo. -- Lawmakers filed several bills pertaining to education before the 2013 Wyoming Legislature convenes Tuesday.

Senators still can submit bills until Jan. 23, and the deadline for representatives is Jan. 28.

Draft bills so far range from developing a curriculum to teach an appreciation of Wyoming industries to accessing court records relevant to expelling students.

Energy curriculum

Senate File 55: Would task state officials and representatives of the energy industry to develop a course of study focusing on the energy industry and natural resources in Wyoming schools. The governor’s policy office would oversee developing the curriculum. The purpose is to give students more appreciation and knowledge of Wyoming’s resources and opportunities.

UW board change

Senate File 38: Would allow two University of Wyoming board members to be residents of another state. The bill proposes that the influence of UW extends beyond the borders of Wyoming, said bill co-sponsor Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper. It also would increase UW board members from 12 to 14 and increase the maximum number of trustees that may be of the same political party from seven to nine.

State Board of Education

Senate File 62: Would designate a district school board trustee as one of the members appointed to the State Board of Education. Currently, the board includes two representatives of business or industry. The bill would replace one of those designations with the school board member.

Accountability Act

House Bill 72: Amendment proposals passed in December would extend by three years the dates for a planned phased-in development of teacher and leader evaluations in the statewide education accountability system.

School finance

Senate File 52: Would encourage state entities and schools to buy vehicles that run on compressed natural gas. The bill mentions UW, colleges and school districts eligible for reimbursement for vehicle costs.

“The purpose of the bill is to start to create critical mass on fueling stations and experience with natural gas vehicles,” Rep. Thomas Lockhart, R-Casper, said.

At least half of the vehicles purchased would run all or partially on compressed gas if the location has a CNG filling station available, or will have one within six months of vehicle replacement date, according to the draft from the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim Committee.

Senate File 47: Would ensure that educational materials and energy components of the state's block grant funding model for school districts remains at cost-based levels, as recommended by consultants. The bill is part of regular adjustments for inflation.

"When you start talking utilities and supplies, that's a moving target," Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody said.

The Joint Education Interim Committee in December tabled but planned to discuss in the general session a proposal that would give the state's chief information officer and the Department of Enterprise Technology Services access to retirement information currently unavailable to them. The information could help legislators make decisions about funding districts.

Student court records

House Bill 47: Would allow school officials or board members access to court information relevant to expelling or suspending a student. The purpose of the bill is to give an exclusion to state statute about disclosing confidential records for minors, according to bill sponsor Rep. Mike Greear, R-Worland.

High school equivalency

House Bill 54: Would remove language from state law that specifies the GED as the high school equivalency exam recognized in the state. The bill would allow similar equivalency to compete for the market in Wyoming. The proposal comes after the GED company abandoned its nonprofit status, and plans to double the costs and offer tests via computer only at specific sites.

School construction

Two bills from the Select Committee on School Facilities deal with factors that determine school sizes. Both are designed to ensure schools are built to meet the needs of the populations they’ll serve, according to Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper.

House Bill 17: Would establish a method to project a school’s enrollment five years from the date of project completion, rather than the start of construction.

This bill would move the requirement passed in 2012 budget amendment from session law -- which is good for two years -- into state statute.

Senate File 8: Would create a new method to calculate school capacity at elementary schools. Under the “homeroom instructional method,” elementary schools are built to be 100 percent capacity in major classroom spaces but not for other rooms (such as gymnasiums). The bill also would maintain secondary schools built at 85 percent capacity (at any time in the day). The numbers are fairly standard nationwide, according to Harshman.

Special funds

Senate File 63: Would keep capital construction maintenance funds separate from school districts' operational funds, according to Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody.

The bill is a response to a survey in which more than half of participating districts have created some special reserve funds and used them to purchase or replace equipment and fund school building repairs, Coe said. The bill is designed to ensure equitable funding among all districts, he added, and would be phased in over two years to allow districts time to comply.

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