The Wyoming State Board of Education is celebrating 100 years of advocacy, support and policy making for Wyoming’s students and schools today, February 21, 2017. Since its formation in 1917, the board has been a consistent and stabilizing force for the public school system.
Created by the Wyoming legislature in 1917, it was a time of great ferment throughout the country. The U.S. Senate was contemplating entering World War I, and Wyoming had been a state for only 27 years. John B. Kendrick, cattleman and politician from Sheridan, Wyoming, was governor. Colonel “Buffalo Bill” Cody also died that winter, and Governor Kendrick delivered the eulogy.
At the capital, New School Code legislation was drafted following a comprehensive, statewide survey designed to investigate the needs of the public school system. New provisions included the establishment of a nonpartisan Wyoming State Board of Education, to serve in an advisory capacity to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The board was also given all necessary powers to work with the Federal Board of Vocational Education to promote education in agriculture, trades and industries in an effort to prepare teachers of vocational subjects. The New School Code further revised standards for curriculum, teacher certification, school attendance and school buildings.
The bill was adopted without opposition on February 17 and signed by Governor Kendrick on February 21, 1917. In 1919, the Fifteenth State Legislature expanded and more clearly defined the board’s responsibilities, including general oversight of vocational or other special schools receiving State aid; prescription of standards regulating the general course of study for elementary and high schools, and for any other institution which receives State aid; regulation of construction and site selection of school houses; supervision of the examination of superintendents and teachers for the public schools; and cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education regarding the examination and instruction of children with special needs. According to the New School Code, the board was entrusted with these and other important duties prescribed by law.
Education reform gained momentum in the 90s, and the State Board of Education became statutorily required to consider and implement additional elements of new education law. In 2011, the legislature enacted the Wyoming Accountability in Education Act (WAEA), and the board took on new components, including convening the Professional Judgment Panel (PJP) and overseeing the development and deployment of a comprehensive, multi-tiered system of support, managing expanded accreditation requirements, and determining graduation requirements, among other things. In 2015, the U.S. Congress also passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); cementing an even greater need for active, nonpartisan state boards across the nation. The Wyoming State Board of Education also remains responsible for policy making related to accountability, assessment, standards and accreditation.
The board is mainly seated by 11 volunteer regional representatives, appointed by the governor for staggered six-year terms. There are currently two additional ex-officio members, State Superintendent Jillian Balow and executive director of the Wyoming Community College Commission, Jim Rose. The board recently added an ex-officio member from the University of Wyoming. Citizens and partners in education have direct access to board members and are invited to offer input at any time.