By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Sixth-generation Wyomingite Megan Degenfelder has won the Republican nomination in the election for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Degenfelder defeated short-term incumbent Brian Schroeder by less than 4,000 votes in Tuesday’s Primary Election, 59,301 to 55,746. The race was so close throughout the night it was the last to be called – 20 minutes after midnight.
Degenfelder was tired and delighted Wednesday morning. She had watched the race results from her hometown of Casper.
“I went into it yesterday not having particular expectations,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “If I know anything about politics and races, it’s that you can never really predict what’s going to happen.”
She was the only Wyoming candidate to defeat an opponent who had been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. Trump-endorsed Rep. Chuck Gray won the Republican bid for Secretary of State and incumbent Treasurer Curt Meier, also a Trump pick, was a shoo-in for the GOP bid for his current office.
Degenfelder said her long-standing Wyoming legacy, the grass-roots campaigning efforts by so many on her behalf, and having a vast majority of her donors based in Wyoming probably made the difference in her narrowly-won race. She also said she would have been pleased to have Trump’s endorsement but the opinions of Wyomingites matter much more to her.
“We stayed true to our message of empowering parents, partnering with industry, and reducing government,” said Degenfelder.
She said these campaign priorities will also be her goals in office, along with preparing students for the ever-changing workforce, with a focus on Wyoming jobs in particular.
Degenfelder worked as chief policy officer under former Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow until 2019, after which Degenfelder became the government and regulatory affairs manager for oil and gas company Morning Star Partners.
She will face Democratic Party nominee Sergio Maldonado in the general election.
‘We’d Fight Back’
Schroeder received statewide attention after the U.S. Department of Agriculture in May released unofficial guidance – with the potential to become a funding requirement – asking schools to update their nondiscrimination statements with new protections based on “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.”
Numerous state attorneys general have said this change could force schools to allow transgender bathroom access.
Schroeder said this summer that he believes Wyoming schools can get by without the roughly $40 million per year in USDA school lunch funding.
Degenfelder said if the guidance becomes an official mandate, she would be willing to fight the federal government in court or otherwise.
“I’m not going to let kids go hungry and I’m not going to let them share bathrooms,” she said. “If orders led to that, we’d fight back against it.
“My career has been fighting back against the federal government,” she continued. “I know how to do that and do it effectively.”
A coalition of 22 states not including Wyoming has sued the USDA over its gender-identity guidance. Gov. Mark Gordon’s office told Cowboy State Daily last month that Wyoming is not among those suing because it doesn’t currently have laws against transgender accommodations like bathroom use and sports participation in schools.
The other states based a portion of their lawsuit on their existing laws conflicting with the federal guidance.
‘Reading, Writing And Math’
Degenfelder opposes the teaching of critical race theory in Wyoming schools.
“From the beginning I’ve always been opposed to critical race theory and I don’t believe it belongs anywhere near our schools,” she said, adding that no “radical political ideology” belongs in the classroom.
“We need to focus on reading, writing and math, and preparing our kids for future jobs in Wyoming,” she said.
To hone that focus, schools will need to become more efficient, cut down on “duplicitous reporting,” red tape, unnecessary “hoops” through which teachers must jump, and get into a classroom-centric approach to education, Degenfelder said.