Wyoming Legislature

Thursday is the final day for bills in the state Legislature to pass a third reading in their chamber of origin, so by Friday morning lawmakers will have in their hands a shortened list of potential new laws.

A plethora of bills that would affect public education in Wyoming made the cutoff, passing third reading and entering “crossover,” when the second chamber takes them up. Some would impact esoteric minutia, such as Senate File 16, which would change the requirements for when districts need to solicit competitive bids for materials and construction projects.

One bill that could spell big changes across the state, however, is SF79.

“Each school district board of trustees shall adopt safety and security policies, including threat assessment procedures,” the bill reads.

SF79 doesn’t specify what those policies would be, but it directs the Wyoming Department of Education to create a framework for such rules. Presumably, each school district could have its own set of guidelines, but they would include the same foundational policies.

The bill directs the state superintendent to craft a framework for threat assessment procedures to determine if an individual student poses a risk to him- or herself or others.

“The model framework shall be developed in consultation with school districts and the office of homeland security,” the bill reads.

The bill doesn’t dictate what school districts should set as policies, but it gives them leeway to craft them outside the public eye.

School boards currently have the freedom to call executive sessions to discuss matters like personnel, litigation and expulsion of students, among other things. SF79 would allow boards to also call executive sessions to discuss safety policies, and it would allow districts to maintain such records as private.

“A district’s safety and security policies and drafts of the policies, if so designated by the district,” the bill says, “shall be confidential and are not public records available for public inspection under the Public Records Act.”

The bill passed the Senate by a 23-7 vote, with Sens. Dan Dockstader, R-Lincoln/Sublette/Teton, and Mike Gierau, D-Teton, voting in favor. As of Wednesday, it had not been received for introduction by the House.

March 5 is the last day for the two chambers to take up bills received from the other side of the Capitol.

A bill going from House to Senate that would fully fund special education passed the House on Feb. 17. The Senate Education Committee recommended passing it and referred it to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

School districts receive a capped amount of money for special education funding under the school foundation program, a block grant that gives them a set amount of money based on a complicated algorithm. House Bill 46 would allocate full funding to school districts through a reimbursement program.

Districts would submit their special education costs from the previous school year, and their block grant would be altered accordingly, should HB46 pass.

Gierau has told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that he thought a bill that fully funded special education couldn’t pass the fiscally conservative Senate. Instead, he thought legislators might support a pool of money districts could draw from should they exceed their special education funding.

However, as it stands, HB46 is still alive in the Senate.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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