school funding model

Tennessee Watson

A senate bill proposing over $40 million in cuts to education over the next several years died in the House Education Committee Friday.


Committee members raised concerns about proposed increases in class sizes, as well as, a change to how the state adjusts funding when districts have declining enrollment. Currently, if districts lose students, their funding decreases based on a three-year rolling average. The proposed legislation wanted decreases to take effect within one year.


Tennessee Watson

Legislation to further cut education funding is making its way through the Wyoming legislature. Wednesday a bill sponsored by Senator Ray Peterson proposing approximately $140 million in cuts was discussed in committee.


Those reductions would be achieved through increased state control over district expenditures. Currently school districts have block grants, which they spend how they see fit. State accountability measures are in place to guarantee that spending benefits the educational needs of kids.



Ten months and $800,000 later, the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration has completed its in-depth look at how Wyoming finances education. Members of APA Consulting, who were tasked with examining the equity and adequacy of the school funding model, told lawmakers the state’s current approach works but pointed out areas for improvement. Despite a recommendation to spend more, lawmakers are opting to spend less.

Tennessee Watson

Despite 10 months of work, a legislative committee has rejected changes to the school funding model. After examination, APA Consulting produced a similar price tag for funding K-12 education as what the state was spending before the last round of cuts.


In its last meeting before the legislative session, the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration refused to adopt the new model suggested by APA.


Tennessee Watson

During the upcoming budget session, lawmakers want to take a closer look at transportation and special education funding, as a part of a larger effort to reform and possibly reduce spending in the K-12 finance model.


Most of what school districts spend on education is covered in a block grant they receive from the state. But transportation and special education are outside that model, and districts instead bill the state for a 100 percent reimbursement.


APA Consulting

Small changes in enrollment can mean big changes in funding for Wyoming’s smaller K-12 schools.


The difference in funding resulting from the loss of one student has the biggest impact on middle and high schools. Currently, a drop in enrollment from 50 down to 49 students, means a school can lose funding for an entire teacher and a reduction in resources. Instead of using fixed cut-offs, state-hired consultants are recommending using a mathematical curve to smooth out funding.


David Joyce /

As more and more students across Wyoming enroll in classes online, it can make calculating attendance at a public school a little more tricky. And homeschool students may come to school for just a portion of the day, while other students might leave school early.

In 2017 the legislature passed a policy changing how the school finance model calculates attendance — or what’s called average daily membership.

The amount of time students spend in school impacts the amount of money districts get in their block grant from the state.

APA Consulting

Education is underfunded in Wyoming, according to a new report from consultants contracted by the Select Committee on School Finance to take an in-depth look at the state’s educational program.

A proposal to increase the recommended average class size in Wyoming schools is part of what lawmakers are reviewing in preparation for the 2018 Legislative Budget Session. Increasing class size has been discussed by policy makers as way to reduce costs.


APA Consulting

Wyoming is proud of its small schools that serve kids across rugged and remote terrain. But lawmakers and educators are weighing whether small schools and small districts are financially sustainable.


At a meeting of the Select Committee for School Finance Recalibration last week, education consultants hired by the state legislature presented consolidation as a way to increase course offerings and extracurricular activities.


Natrona County Schools

With close to 1,000 empty seats across the school district, Natrona County will close four schools next fall. Administrators say the decline in enrollment is due to a downturn in the energy industry, which has also brought reductions in state funding for education.


School district superintendents across Wyoming are encouraging families to make their voices heard during the school finance recalibration process between now and January.

In a letter sent out by Campbell County School District One Superintendent Boyd Brown, he asked families to consider: “Should today’s student get the same or a lesser education than previous graduates due to energy market fluctuations?”

He also wanted them to think through, what would happen if fewer subject areas were offered, or if class size increased, to save money?

With energy revenue down, Wyoming state finances are tight and that has lawmakers looking for ways to streamline spending. Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration is responsible for figuring out how that works. One place they are looking is K-12 education. Senator Dave Kinskey serves on the committee. He said he wants to be sure Wyoming is getting the most bang for its buck. 

Tennessee Watson

Wyoming spends significantly more on education than most states. The national average is around $12,000 per student each year, while Wyoming spends over $19,000. But Wyoming’s funding deficit has caused policy makers to question what exactly the state is paying for, and if the high price tag is required to provide a quality education. 

On Tuesday, legislators on the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration met for the first time with APA Consulting — a firm contracted to help re-evaluate the state’s educational program and funding model.

Office of Governor Matt Mead

The accounts that fund education saw an unexpected revenue boost, which brought the predicted education shortfall from $400 million down to $250 million, according to Governor Matt Mead.


Mead said coal is coming back — along with oil and gas — but he cautioned the state is still running short on funds. He added that means the legislature will have some hard work to do during the 2018 Budget Session, as they consider further budget reductions or alternate revenue through new taxes.


Logos courtesy of APA and the Wyoming State Legislature

The Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration—charged with looking for ways to reduce spending in the face of funding shortfalls—announced they will be working with APA Consulting to assess the current school funding model.

Wyoming Department of Education

In response to the current state funding crisis, the Wyoming Department of Education surveyed school districts to see how cuts were impacting their annual budgets. The results confirm the budget crisis is impacting summer programming.


Of Wyoming’s 48 districts, Big Horn School District #2 in Lovell and Teton County School District #1 in Jackson, were the only two districts not included in the survey results.


Chair and umbrella from Pixabay. Design by Tennessee Watson

Summer school might sound like a punishment, but according to Karen Bierhaus from the Wyoming Department of Education, it often provides opportunities for students to learn in more creative and engaging ways.

However, due to changes in the school funding model during the 2017 Wyoming Legislative session, funding through the Wyoming Bridges Program for summer and extended day programs no longer exists.

Aaron Schrank

A funding crisis brought on by a downturn in the coal industry has left policy makers struggling to figure out how to fund education. This year school districts took a hit of $34 million to their operating budgets.


That’s primarily money for teachers and staff, as well as materials and supplies. But the funding for school construction and maintenance is also running out.


Photo by Gabriel Pollard from Flickr with Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

A growing deficit in funding continues to loom over the K-12 education system in Wyoming. The legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee and Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration came together Monday to work together towards a solution.  Most lawmakers say it will require a combination of cuts and revenue to resolve the deficit. 

Earlier this month, legislators met to take another look at the school funding model and possibly change it. That’s called recalibration. But changing school funding is a tricky business because politics is a big variable in the spending equation. At the April 3rd meeting of the Select Committee for School Finance Recalibration, there was only one thing that everyone could agree on.

Lawmakers, district administrators, and concerned citizens gathered this week for the first meeting of the Legislature's Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration. 

Recalibration is the process of evaluating and adjusting the school funding model. They are intended to happen every 5 years as mandated by a 2005 Wyoming Supreme Court decision. The next one was scheduled for 2020, but in response to the $400 million deficit in the education budget, legislators bumped up the schedule. 

Tennessee Watson

Every superintendent will tell you the goal is to keep cuts far away from the classroom and to hang on to as many teachers as possible. During the last legislative session, Wyoming educators asked the legislature to use reserves to cover the deficit, but instead, they stuck them with a $34 million funding reduction. Meanwhile, contracts to teachers are due April 15th, so district school boards are in the midst of figuring out what else in their budgets can go.

The Campbell County District School Board passed a resolution authorizing a lawsuit against the state at their meeting Tuesday evening. While no legal action has been taken yet, the resolution gives the district the right to sue if budget cuts limit the district’s ability to provide a quality education to their students as guaranteed by the Wyoming Constitution. 

Office of Governor Matt Mead

Now that the Wyoming Legislature has passed House Bill 236, school districts are standing by to see if Governor Matt Mead will sign onto the $34 million in cuts to education funding for the upcoming school year. The House and Senate reached a compromise on the bill Friday in the final hours of the 2017 Legislative Session.

If Mead signs it, the hard work of figuring out what and who to cut will begin immediately for district school boards, administrators and business managers.

People packed the Senate Education Committee meeting Wednesday to discuss House Bill 236 that will attempt to address the state’s education funding shortfall. The bill differs from the Senate approach to the problem in that it proposes some funding reductions, but holds off deep and immediate cuts to education by using legislative savings.

Should those savings dip to $500 million, a half percent sales and use tax would go into affect to generate more revenue. Representatives of the energy industry say that tax would hurt their industries.

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.


A group of Wyoming school districts is requesting to meet with lawmakers this summer to resolve concerns about funding.

In March, the Legislature passed a budget cutting $36 million in K-12 funding over the next two years. That’s a cut of more than one percent.

The decrease was taken out of an adjustment for inflation known as the ‘external cost adjustment.’

Campbell County Superintendent Boyd Brown is one of 28 superintendents who signed a letter asking to be allowed to make their case before the Joint Education Interim Committee.

Campbell County School District

The 2016 Legislative budget session wraps up this week. One of the big things lawmakers have been discussing over the past month is funding for Wyoming’s K-12 schools. The House and Senate have agreed to a budget that will cut about $36 million dollars from education in the next two school years.

Wyoming Education Association

The Wyoming House of Representatives added an eleventh hour amendment to the state budget that could be a big topic of discussion when the budget conference committee meets this week. 

The Senate voted down three amendments to restore some of the nearly 46 million dollars in budget cuts to education, but the House adjusted how the budget reductions will be handled. The plan was originally to take the money out of what school districts use to pay for rising classroom costs and teacher salaries, but the House restored those cuts and instead reduced funding for Transportation.