Wyoming Charter School Proposal Falls One Vote Short in Legislature

Published May 1, 2008

A bill to allow greater freedom to establish charter schools in Wyoming fell one vote short of approval by the state House Budget Committee on February 14.

House Bill 152, sponsored by state Rep. Amy Edmonds (R-Cheyenne), needed support from two-thirds of the 59 committee members present for the vote in order to be introduced on the House floor. The bill garnered 38 votes but needed 39.

The bill would have covered the essentials of installing a state board of public charter schools and would have set up an independent authorizing authority–meaning local school boards wouldn’t have control over charter schools in the state.

Right now, Edmonds said, the only way to open a charter school is to go through the public school district. And that just doesn’t work, she noted.

“In Wyoming, the system is like Lowe’s going to Home Depot for a loan,” Edmonds said.

Desire for Choice

The vote came as increasing numbers of Wyoming parents are seeking fundamental changes to state laws to give them more choice in their children’s education, according to a study released in mid-February by the Wyoming Association of Public Charter Schools and the Center for Education Reform (CER), a national charter school advocacy group based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Similarly, a Wyoming poll conducted by CER earlier this year found 76 percent of those surveyed believed in allowing communities to create public charter schools.

“Clearly, people in Wyoming appreciate the idea of choice,” said Kara Hornung, CER’s director of communications. Roughly 60 percent of parents polled, Hornung said, say they should be able to choose their children’s school.

Hornung noted Cheyenne has only three high schools, all run by the local school district. There are only three charter schools in the entire state, Edmonds said.

Distinct Alternative

Independent charter schools often present a distinct alternative to their district-run counterparts. For instance, educators choose to teach at charter schools, not the other way around, Hornung noted. Moreover, “the charter schools offer more innovative, research-based practices” than do government-run public schools, she said.

Edmonds said she will introduce the bill again during the general session beginning in January 2009, and she has no plans to alter it.

“We won’t be doing anything differently,” Edmonds said. “We will probably look at it this summer and go through our starter statutes. We had good support. It was a good bill, a good step. I like the bill as it is.”

Elisha Maldonado ([email protected]) writes from California.

For more information …

“Wyomingites Want Fundamental Change in State’s Charter School Law,” Center for Education Reform, February 14, 2008: http://www.edreform.com/index.cfm?fuseAction=document&documentID=2806&sectionID=55