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Lawmakers Still Uncertain On True Cost Of Quality Education

Tennessee Watson

Lawmakers met in Casper this week to examine the current school funding model and to hear recommendations from APA, a Denver-based education consulting firm hired to help the state find efficiencies in education funding.

The consultants were given a half-million-dollar contract to compare Wyoming’s funding with other states, and determine if Wyoming’s funding model is equitable and if it could be more cost-effective.

But Pinedale Representative Albert Sommers, who chairs the committee overseeing the effort, said the consultants have yet to present the data and cost-analysis the lawmakers need to make informed decisions.

Sommers admitted that heading into the meeting his expectations were low. “Because I knew that we probably weren’t going to have solid numbers yet in this analysis,” said Sommers. “I think we need a little more meat on the bones in the area of special education and transportation.”  

Sommers acknowledged the consultants were asked to work on a tight timeline. After receiving feedback from the committee, the consultants will issue a draft report due in mid-December. Sommers said he expects at that point policymakers will have a more complete picture.

“The big pieces that are missing right now are the values they would place in a funding model,” said Sommers. “So these individual components of a funding model: What do they cost? What does it look like when you roll them all together? How does it change what an individual district is going to get funded?”

The final report from the consultants is due in early January, and they will continue to work with the state through next June to implement recommendations.

Tennessee -- despite what the name might make you think -- was born and raised in the Northeast. She most recently called Vermont home. For the last 15 years she's been making radio -- as a youth radio educator, documentary producer, and now reporter. Her work has aired on Reveal, The Heart, LatinoUSA, Across Women's Lives from PRI, and American RadioWorks. One of her ongoing creative projects is co-producing Wage/Working (a jukebox-based oral history project about workers and income inequality). When she's not reporting, Tennessee likes to go on exploratory running adventures with her mutt Murray.
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