The Republican House Speaker in Wyoming is facing charges from his own party that he sold out parental rights and school choice in favor of the state’s teachers’ union.
Speaker Albert Sommers shelved plans to allow floor votes for two pieces of legislation that would support parental rights.
The first would ban sexual identity teaching in the classroom before the fourth grade and the second would enact universal school choice, the Washington Examiner reports.
“Fundamentally, I believe in local control,” Sommers told the Cowboy State Daily. “I’ve always fought – regardless of what really the issue is – against taking authority away from local school boards, town councils, county commissions. And in my view, that’s what this bill does.”
One member of the state’s Freedom Caucus says that Sommers’ support of the teachers’ union is what is really behind the moves.
“I believe the biggest pressure [against the bill] is coming from the teachers’ union, of which he’s very supportive of,” said Rep. John Bear, according to the Washington Examiner.
“We have a lot of people who run as Republicans but have very progressive beliefs,” he added.
Bear also blasted Sommers’ contention that he’s simply protecting local control of education.
“The speaker claimed that this particular bill stifled local control, but this bill actually gave control to the most local of all, the parents, in regards to the education of [kindergarten] through third graders,” said Bear, who chairs the Freedom Caucus.
The Daily reports that despite the GOP having a 57 vote to 5 vote majority over Democrats in the state House, the Republican delegation is often split 31 votes to 26 votes, with the 26 votes representing the Freedom Caucus.
However, Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow at the American Federation for Children and school choice advocate, noted on Twitter that the bill already passed the Senate and has very strong support in the House:
Wyoming House Speaker Albert Sommers ("R") is holding up a bill to fund students instead of systems.
A majority of the Wyoming House cosponsored the bill.
It has the votes to pass.
It already passed the Senate.
The Wyoming House is over 90% Republican. pic.twitter.com/tTIRLVQ6Rm
— Corey A. DeAngelis, school choice evangelist (@DeAngelisCorey) February 25, 2023
“This is a failure of leadership by Speaker Sommers,” Heritage Foundation education research fellow Jason Bedrick told the Examiner.
“Wyoming had the chance to empower families with the ability to choose the learning environments that align with their values and work best for their children. Refusing to allow a vote on this bill was a blow to kids trapped in schools that aren’t working for them.”