CHEYENNE — The state House made major changes to a bill aimed at improving underperforming public schools, raising concern that the entire measure could be jeopardized.
Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, said he didn’t believe the Senate would agree to the changes representatives made Friday to Senate File 70.
The entire bill could be jeopardized “if we can’t put it back a little bit like” the Senate version, Coe said.
The bill is one of several proposed measures to address concerns that the state’s public education system isn’t providing students with the quality education that should be expected from the state’s nearly $1.5 billion annual investment in its schools.
The changes the 60-member House made were approved by a margin of one vote and essentially delay provisions designed to hold underperforming schools accountable for low student scores and to help those underperforming schools improve.
Republican Rep. Steve Harshman, a high school teacher from Casper, pushed the changes through the House during the last of three votes the chamber cast on the bill this week.
Republican Rep. Matt Teeters of Lingle, chairman of the House Education Committee, lamented the late changes to a bill that was the product of much work over the summer and during the current session.
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“I just don’t want to jeopardize a good bill with a last-minute amendment on third reading,” Teeters said.
Harshman said the provisions of the bill imposing consequences on underperforming schools were too much like the federal No Child Left Behind law.
“We’re not ready for that,” he said.
Another major change the House approved was measuring schools’ performance with student scores on the state’s Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students, or PAWS, which has been heavily criticized because of problems in administering it. The original bill allowed use of college entrance exam scores to measure how schools are performing.
Harshman said using PAWS scores would allow the state to make better school-to-school comparisons although it would not be useful in comparing Wyoming schools to schools in other states.
Teeters said using the PAWS test scores was “problematic,” but he was hopeful the bill would eventually be salvaged.
Coe said the bill is “big enough we have to work it out.”