Cindy Hill, the Superintendent of Public Instruction of Wyoming, is arguing that allegations of mismanagement against her are in reality a retaliation for her attempts to block the adoption of the Common Core Standards in the state. John Celock of the Huffington Post reports that Hill is accusing Governor Matt Mead of a politically-motivated attack meant to hinder her efforts to keep Wyoming's education system out of federal control.
Hill, who is a member of the Tea Party, a political movement with strong support for federalism, has stated publicly that Common Core was a way for the federal government to assert control over things like the curriculum and student assessment, traditionally the purview of the states. Although this view of Common Core is shared by many, supporters of the standards argue that they were designed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Although federal education officials, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Barack Obama have expressed support for Common Core, they played no role in its design and didn't fund it. The money was provided by the Gates Foundation.
It has since been adopted by 45 states and Washington, D.C., but has come under fire from tea party activists, who claim it is seeking federal control of education, a claim advocates have denied.
"We'll lose control over what the kids learn," Hill told the Star-Tribune, referring to Core. "School boards should determine that. But it will be determined at a national level."
Hill has a rocky relationship with Mead and state lawmakers; the Legislature stripped most of her responsibilities in January amid accusations of mismanagement of the state Department of Education.
Over the course of this year, Hill's duties were reduced and now cover mainly ceremonial duties rather than control over day-to-day operation of the state's education system. One of her current roles is as Wyoming's concussion prevention advocate.
State lawmakers are now considering taking steps to formally impeach her, and meanwhile, her former job – heading up the state's education agency – has been taken over by a Mead appointee.
In the Mead report, Hill is accused of forcing state employees to fly on the state plane with her so she could use their budgets to pay for her use of the plane. Hill is also accused of waving around a knife at her staff birthday party, saying, "I will not be bullied" in reference to a 2012 legislative report accusing her of mismanagement.
Hill instilled a culture of fear in employees, who took to carrying baseball bats and bear spray for protection when they went to the bathroom, the Mead report said. Staffers also formed groups to protect "young cute girls" who worked in the office. The report did not say why "young cute girls" needed to be protected.