A banner hangs on the wall outside the entrance to Supt. Cindy Hill’s current office in the Barrett Building during the 2013 legislative session. Today’s Wyoming Supreme Court decision reverses Senate File 104, a 2013 bill that removed Superintendent Hill from direct management of the Wyoming Department of Education. (WyoFile/Gregory Nickerson)

The Wyoming Supreme Court released an opinion today that could put Superintendent Cindy Hill back in charge of the Wyoming Department of Education. Three of the five justices on the court found in favor of overturning Senate Enrolled Act 1 from the 2013 session, commonly known as Senate File 104.

Barring a successful appeal of the ruling, the decision could begin a process to restore powers that Senate File 104 transferred from the Superintendent of Public Instruction to an appointed director in the Wyoming Department of Education. Justice James Burke wrote the majority opinion, and justices Michael Davis and Barton Voight (retired) concurred. Justice Michael Golden (retired) and Chief Justice Marilyn Kite dissented.

The central question of the court’s decision turned on the meaning of Article 7, Section 14 of the Wyoming Constitution, which states:

“The general supervision of the public schools shall be entrusted to the state superintendent of public instruction, whose powers and duties shall be prescribed by law.”

The majority argued that Senate File 104 violated the state constitution by removing the general supervision of schools from the Superintendent. The dissenting justices held that the law followed the constitutional charge for the legislature, “which expressly includes prescribing the superintendent’s powers and duties to generally supervise the public schools.”

Wyoming Department of Education spokesman Tom Lacock told WyoFile that the agency is still sorting out the ramifications of the decision by consulting with Gov. Matt Mead’s office. Among those questions is what will become of appointed director Richard Crandall, who joined the department last year.

“As of right now we still have a lot of work to do until we have a better understanding of the process and what happens next,” Lacock said. “Until we know what happens next we are going to go about our work much as possible. It’s a weird time here.”

Update: On January 30th the Office of the Wyoming Attorney General announced it will request a rehearing of the Senate File 104 suit before the Supreme Court. If the request is granted it could delay Hill’s return to the Wyoming Department of Education. Read this press release for more.

To learn about current debates in Wyoming education policy, read Wyoming lawmakers want better schools, teacher raises, by Gregory Nickerson, January 14, 2014.

Supreme Court Decision

Wyoming Supreme Court Decision on Supt of Public Instruction 2014WY15 (Text)

Gregory Nickerson

Gregory Nickerson worked as government and policy reporter for WyoFile from 2012-2015. He studied history at the University of Wyoming. Follow Greg on Twitter at @GregNickersonWY and on www.facebook.com/GregoryNickersonWriter/

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  1. She won the republican good ole boys lost . Get over it. Why don’t they take a good long look at their own unethical practices. Hank Coe is bent on their being accountability I would love him to go to Cody High School and take a gander at the one size fits all disabled vocational program. No text books allowed in special education or even to look at one. Yet the “subgroup” who receive little if any substandard education are pounded daily with 100% grades on power school for the schools average but the students identity are “protected”. How do you account for that Hank?

  2. My…my….all the Hillbots are giddy over this loon getting her job back! You know nothing of the inside story about this woman!!!

  3. The simplest solution would be for her to resign. It’s obvious she did not do her job properly. The Dept of Education does not want her back. She has won her case, saved her face, now she should be gracious, resign, and let the professionals in place now continue to do their job.

  4. If they would of impeached her, would we still have Mr. Crandall? I don’t know if we, as voters would of voted for the man. As reporters, someone surely has let the ball drop on his qualifications and residency. Why is that? Now we are sending teachers to Arizona to learn the system? Do they get Rattler tickets too?

  5. I agree with Dewey. The legislature should have just impeached Hill and left the Dept of Ed. alone. But instead, the Republican leadership went for more power and control, which demonstrates their claim to be “doing this for the kids” to be a lie.

    Of course, this mess isn’t over by a long shot. This being a budget session, the Legislature barely has enough time to get done what needs to be done as it is. I don’t see it cutting into Budget development to impeach Hill. It’s probably going to take a special session, and thus more money down the rathole.

    I will say it’s enjoyable to watch the Republicans chew on each other. It’s a shame the Democrats won’t do anything to take advantage of it.

    RH

  6. In hindsight, it is apparent that the Legislators should have just impeached Cindy Hill.

    Looking forward, the Legislators should just go ahead and impeach Cindy Hill anyway. During the lej session , not after.

    Plenty of incompetency and vindictiveness on both sides of this fray. They all look bad.

  7. While I agree that Cindy Hill is both incompetent and vindictive, and so professionally unsuited and unqualified for the office to which she was elected, it’s also clear that the real purpose of the Hill bill, S104, was to slap down dissent within the Wyoming Republican Party from the upstart Tea Party contingent, which Hill represents. The Wyoming Oligarchy, based in the minerals and livestock industries, doesn’t tolerate challenges to its authority from any quarter, whether from Republicans or Democrats, whether from citizens or would be politicians. Hill challenged that authority, so down she went.

    In effect, S104 was a continuance of “state reorganization” from the late 1980s, through which the Oligarchy relegated various independent State policy making boards and commissions to advisory and at will status, serving at the pleasure of the Wyoming governor, who in turn serves the Oligarchy rather than the people of Wyoming. State reorganization was thus a blow to decentralized democratic (small “d”) governance in Wyoming; it strengthened the Oligarchy’s control over State government by centralizing authority over various boards, commissions, and departments strictly in the hands of the Governor.

    However, because Hill was a statewide elected official, an unruly one disrespectful of the status quo, the Oligarchy decided it was in its political interests to strip the office of its powers and give them to an appointed official subservient to the Governor. This was a warning to other statewide elected officials who might think about challenging the Oligarchy.

    However, the Supreme Court decision gives notice to the Oligarchy that its powers are not supreme; the all powerful Wyoming Oligarchy still must submit to the State Constitution. So even for progressives, the Supreme Court decision is a victory, because the Oligarchy has for once lost.

    RH

  8. This is, indeed, a win for Wyoming’s state constitution. Is this a win for the voters of this state? Probably. However, in no possible way is this a win for Wyoming schools or, especially, the children of this state.

  9. Despite my disdain for Ms Hill, the Supremes got this one correct. The majority of Wyoming’s ignorant teapublican voters cast ballots for her, so they need to live with the consequences for the duration of her term. Alternatively, they could have petitioned for recall and/or encouraged their legislators to begin impeachment proceedings. But the legislature and governor do not have executive fiat to effect a change to the states constitution.

    It’s now time for all state voters, regardless of party, to pay attention and learn the lesson from this ongoing fiasco – it’s time to get rid of the good old boys and girls and elect some new blood. Ignore the party affiliation and vote for those who will effect truly good policy for the growth of our state.

    Finally, consider voting Democrat or Independent for once, you might be pleasantly surprised!