Gov. Matt Mead has signed into law several pieces of education reform legislation that aim to improve the performance of Wyoming's public schools, teachers and students and address concerns that the state isn't receiving the quality education it deserves for the amount of money it is spending.
"Education is just going to continue to be, for me and hopefully for future governors, one of the critical issues for Wyoming and for the country," Mead said. "... We still have more to do, but I was very pleased with the work on education."
He signed a bill Thursday that sets up a statewide system to measure student academic progress in public schools, and imposes consequences on underperforming schools.
Starting in school year 2013-14, schools that show poor student achievement in consecutive years will be subjected to state Education Department intervention that may include changes in their curriculum, instruction, school organization and how the district allocates its money.
The law creates a select committee of lawmakers to oversee the process and recommend specific legislation needed in the future. The committee will be aided by an advisory panel made up of educators and others.
Earlier this week, the governor signed a companion bill that requires school districts and administrators to measure teacher performance annually and come up with a way to tie teacher performance to student academic achievement.
He also signed a separate bill Thursday that provides state funding for day-to-day school operations and sets student-to-teacher ratios at 16-to-1 in kindergarten through third grades.
"These bills are intended to raise Wyoming graduation rates, and they'll certainly help us to increase both learning achievement and raise teacher performance as well," said state
Senate President Jim Anderson, R-Glenrock. "And I think by passing these bills, Wyoming could very well put itself in the forefront of education in the United States."
The reform measures resulted from concerns that Wyoming students aren't getting the quality education expected from the state's nearly $1.5 billion-a-year investment in its public schools.
Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, was instrumental in advancing the reform measures over the past year, saying the state needed more accountability in its public education system.
"The accountability process marches forward," Coe said Thursday.