Op Ed: The finalists for the position are not the best candidates | Opinion

Walk with me down the path of disbelief into the abyss of absurdity that has been the selection of Wyoming’s new Superintendent of Public Instruction. The superintendent is one of only five statewide elected officials we elect. This constitutional officer not only administers the millions that pass through the Wyoming Department of Education, but also makes critical decisions on important councils that impact land policies, economic development, and most other issues affecting communities. citizens of Wyoming.

With that in mind, it’s worth considering who the 73-member Republican Central Committee from the state of Wyoming chose as three possible candidates for the position. In total, there were 12 candidates, some of whom had years of experience in education policy. Of the three selected by the GOP, two moved to Wyoming after 2019. My kid’s backpack has seen more Wyoming schools than those two. One of these gentlemen is principal of a small private Christian school in Cody, but has spent most of his career as a pastor. The other recently fled our more populous southern neighbor and teaches at an online university. While I have no doubt that both are decent and even admirable human beings, they are hardly the resumes of people who should be given the keys to a billion dollar education system.

The third nominee is a former Wyoming legislator with no significant education policy expertise or accomplishments. In fact, this candidate touts her lack of education experience and knowledge as her main qualification for the position. She is a culture warrior through and through, but has no discernible vision to actually improve our academic performance.

What mirror did we fall through to get here?

There are certainly fundamental questions about the procedure used to make the selection. Some of these issues are currently before the courts, in particular the Central Committee’s disregard for the constitutional principle of one person/one vote. The four largest counties account for nearly half of Wyoming’s entire public school population (47%). Yet under the antiquated electoral process, those same counties only got 16% of the vote (12 out of 73). This is an election process that is specifically designed to get the tails wagging the dog.

Even more problematic is the body that makes the decision. One would expect that if parents and people genuinely concerned about our children and their future were in charge of the process, the questions posed to applicants would have focused on raising children effectively or the challenges of funding a quality education system in the face of declining incomes. If you were expecting to hear these questions from the Wyoming GOP, you would be wrong. Instead, two of the three questions posed to candidates were addressed:

Legislation that was passed almost 10 years ago and was immediately ruled unconstitutional, something completely unrelated to the way schools are run today.

A Department of Education expense for a company that may have a relationship with a relative of United States Attorney General Merrick Garland.

I apologize if you are confused. You will see nothing about school finances, nothing about preparing our children for today’s job market, and nothing about improving classrooms and teachers. Instead, one can only assume these were baseball/gotcha questions aimed at undermining certain candidates.

This whole sad process shows that the majority of the Central Committee is not primarily concerned with the improvement of public education. Instead, their priority is any political hack: fueling the scandal machine, stoking fear and generating donations. If not, they would have asked important questions. They would have selected at least one candidate with real experience and expertise in education policy. They do not have.

I grew up in public schools in Wyoming. I watch my youngest child navigate his final semester of public school. In 15 years of parent-teacher conferences and back-to-school parties, 15 years of homework help, I have never seen the impact of the political firebombs of critical race theory or gay toilets. We were anxious about the fact that there were good teachers and there were bad teachers. We have seen very real impacts of not using school resources wisely and have benefited from innovation and educators who are passionate about their craft. These are the questions that concern parents and reflect on the future of our state. Unfortunately, the Central Committee was absorbed in a political statement, not in building an educational system. Wyoming deserves better.

(Tim Stubson is a former Wyoming legislator, lifelong Republican, and happy beneficiary of Wyoming’s public education system.)


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