K-12 leaders from 28 different school districts are urging lawmakers to roll back recent cuts to education funding—and to follow Wyoming’s statutory school funding model.
They’ll meet with the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee this week and ask those lawmakers to sponsor legislation restoring $36 million dollars in cuts to school funding over the next two years.
But Committee Chairman Senator Hank Coe says that’s unlikely.
“We’ll be lucky if we’re able to fund K-12 at the levels we're funding it right now,” Coe says.
Coe says Wyoming has been funding schools better than other states in the region, and cuts are necessary as the School Foundation fund faces a 20 percent decline in revenue.
“The 800-pound gorilla in the room with the finances of the state is probably the school foundation program,” says Coe. “We’re funding schools better than anybody else in the region. Our teachers are paid better than anybody else in the region. I’m a little bit ticked off, I guess, that the districts are coming in—when they are fully aware of the problems funding state government and the school foundation program—asking for more money.”
The coalition of school district leaders says the $36 million dollars in cuts approved in this year’s budget session are overkill, because the school funding model is designed to adjust to fiscal realities. Funding is based on enrollment and it’s expected that student enrollment will decline across the state.
Coe says the committee would not have the power to reverse the cuts.
“The most we could do is vote to support the request of the districts. Honestly, I’m not sure that the votes are there to do that. I can’t say for sure. Co-chairman Northrup and I would have to put it on the table for a vote. I’m not sure I can support that.”
The Joint Education Committee will meet with the coalition on Tuesday in Casper.