CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- The Wyoming Senate has restored some duties to the state schools superintendent as it advanced a bill revamping how the state Department of Education is run.
The changes made Tuesday don't change the crux of Senate File 104, which would remove the state superintendent of public instruction as administrative head of the Education Department in favor of a new director appointed by the governor.
The bill is scheduled for more floor debate Wednesday.
Supporters of the proposal say it would entrust delivery of Wyoming's K-12 public education into the hands of a professional administrator and put the state's education reform efforts back on track. Opponents question giving the governor more power and making such a major change in the responsibility of a statewide elected official.
The bill evolved in the wake of criticism over how Superintendent Cindy Hill has run the agency, which has seen a great deal of employee turnover since she was elected about two years ago.
A legislative liaison report found, among other things, that the Education Department has failed to follow through on education accountability efforts required by law, setting back the state's ambitious education overhaul plans. Hill also has drawn criticism for how she spent some of her agency's money.
Hill has defended her administration of the agency, saying she's done what lawmakers have asked her to do. She contends that putting the department in the hands of an appointed bureaucrat would diminish the superintendent's job to a ceremonial position.
On Tuesday, senators approved an amendment offered by Sen. Curt Meier, R-LaGrange, that restores various duties and powers to the superintendent.
Under the amendment, the superintendent would continue to be a voting member of the State Board of Education, which sets education policy in Wyoming, and remain on the commission that oversees school construction and maintenance across the state. In addition, the superintendent would oversee the charter school application process.
Other changes include retaining the superintendent's authority to appoint some members of an education advisory council.
Meier said his amendment "didn't have anything to do directly with the delivery of K-12 education but nonetheless were very important."
"I think it gives the superintendent a little bit more to do," he said.
Supporters of the bill had no problem with the changes.
"It puts some more responsibility onto the superintendent," Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody and one of the main sponsors of the bill, said.
He emphasized that the amendment leaves agency spending decisions and accountability implementation with the new director.
The Senate also approved an amendment outlining some qualifications needed by the new Education Department director.
It rejected a proposal that would have given the State Board of Education the power to appoint the director rather than the governor.