Declaration of bigotry
Re: City nondiscrimination resolution
Mayor Roger Miller’s unilateral decision to strip sexual orientation and gender identity from the non-discrimination resolution turned what was meant to be an affirmation of our community’s acceptance of our LGBT family, friends and neighbors into a declaration of our bigotry.
It would have been better for the council to pass nothing at all than what they did. After hearing many first-hand testimonials, after being presented with clear evidence of a statewide, organized hostility toward LGBT citizens, after most of the council openly admitted that discrimination is a problem in our community, they unanimously approved the exact opposite of a declaration that the oppressed deserve respect and protection.
Removing sexual orientation and gender identity from the resolution with the wrongheaded excuse that leaving it would somehow grant LGBT people “more” rights than the rest of us, broadcasts loud and clear that Sheridan does not support equal rights for all.
Statewide spending on education
Re: Results vs. budgets
At a recent meeting, my colleague, state Sen. Bruce Burns, referred to statements I have made about the need to obtain superior results in education for the amount of taxpayer money spent. Brad Mohrmann wrote a letter to the editor, published in the Sheridan Press on Tuesday, that was critical of Senator Burns. The same writer has been quite critical of me in the past as well.
My statement, oft-repeated, was to the effect that Wyoming spends more on K-12 education per student per year than 44 other states, yet our statewide results on national standardized tests are not significantly different from half of the states in the US.
From that observation Mr. Mohrmann, like some others in the education community, makes huge incorrect inferential leaps to the effect that I, and others in the Legislature, want to “slash funding” and asserts how uniquely proud he is of Sheridan schools, as though to say that I, and others in the Legislature, are not.
In fact, in the Legislature, I am a big proponent of Sheridan schools. Our board, administration, principals, teachers and staff embrace accountability for teaching each and every student to the best of their ability. Sheridan’s Professional Learning Community Model produces the highest academic achievement levels in the state of Wyoming, with a budget per student that is among the lowest in Wyoming. Among Wyoming school districts, Sheridan dedicates a higher portion of its budget to direct student instruction, and among the lowest portion to administration.
Some dismiss Sheridan’s performance as due to “demographics.” In turn, those same folks defend poor academic performance in certain other districts as due to “energy families” or “highly mobile workers” or similar, as though children from those families are incapable of the highest levels of academic achievement. This is the worst sort of blaming of the victim.
Sheridan’s culture of teaching excellence doesn’t allow such excuse-making. In Sheridan, there is an expectation of excellence of every student no matter how humble their circumstance. In Sheridan, schools with a high percentage of free and reduced lunch families have attained national blue ribbon status.
Change begins at the top, and if every school board and district administrator in the state would make the same teaching excellence commitment as has been done in Sheridan, they’d achieve similar superior academic results.
Money alone is not the answer in education. Money is important, yes. But there must also be a commitment to a culture of examining results and outcomes, and striving continuously to improve teaching performance. That is not an answer some want to hear. “Quite talking about test scores,” I’ve been told.
To do so cheats our children and our families of the education they deserve.
I want to see the Sheridan model replicated statewide. Will the day come when the education lobby is as energetic about improving student attainment as it is about bigger budgets and raising taxes?
Sen. Dave Kinskey
ENDOW long overdue attempt
Re: Economic diversity
Wyoming’s recent economic downturn with the accompanying governmental budget crisis is a painful reminder of the folly of linking the state’s revenues so lopsidedly to the mineral extraction industry. Despite rollbacks of regulations on leasing at the federal level, the market demand for coal is steadily declining. While natural gas is currently in demand, the resources are finite. Moreover, as any financial advisor learns in Finance 101, dependence on a single category of income is risky and shortsighted.
Gov. Mead’s appointment of the Economically Needed Diversity Option for Wyoming (ENDOW) Executive Council is a long overdue attempt to initiate economic diversity in the state. Released in August, the Council’s initial report provides a detailed analysis of the of Wyoming socio-economic landscape and flags the barriers and opportunities for diversifying the economy.
The report is an important first step. But it is only a first step.
What is needed is a bold commitment to invest in the changes required to create a diversified, robust economy. In this regard, we would be advised to consult the concrete steps that other states have taken. In the 1980s for example, Colorado business and civic leaders began a 30 year program to invigorate and diversify a flagging economy by swerving investment away from an excessive fossil fuel focus to promoting technology start-ups, aeronautical satellite manufacturing, as well as solar and wind energy manufacturing and installation. They took concrete steps to bolster education and infrastructure , as well as preserve natural recreational assets. These efforts—and others– required substantial financial investment (including raising taxes and attracting venture capital) and reaped significant results in less than 30 years.
Colorado is not the only model available, and Wyoming will want to develop its own. But it does represent a “can-do” approach that is instructive. As the ENDOW report concludes, “If we have the political and cultural will to think differently and make the proper investments, we can increase Wyoming’s prosperity and economic diversification.”
Thinking and investing differently requires redistributing our excessive reliance on mineral extraction and taking concrete steps to implement a truly diverse economy.
Seniors have common sense;
keep movie descriptions
I agree with the three previous letters regarding the senior center. There are many people unhappy with the changes, but do not express their dissatisfaction. “Old people” will agree with change if it is for the better. What they do have an abundance of is common sense. Too bad that wasn’t appreciated and utilized.
On another topic, I wish and hope The Press will return to its publication of the short previews of movies being shown. Personally, I will not attend any now, not knowing that a movie is about or what characters are playing. The previous short paragraphs were very helpful.