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Teachers Take Action Against Education Cuts

Tennessee Watson

As Wyoming policymakers prepare for the 2018 Budget Session, in which education will be a big topic, teachers are stepping up efforts to make their voices heard.

On Thursday evening, teachers and community members gathered in the backroom of a Laramie restaurant for a postcard writing party.


Teachers Paige Gustafson and Mariah Learned organized the event. Gustafson said it’s hard to get to legislative meetings because they usually happen when she’s teaching. So for the last year, she and Learned have been organizing parties like this one.


Gustafson wants to make sure lawmakers know that teachers do care.


“I feel like last year we weren’t content in just waiting to see what came at us, and we needed to find something proactive that we could do to offset that anxiety about seeing how those bills come forward that were very scary,” said Gustafson, “and letting legislators know that people are definitely listening.”


Learned added she’d like to see policymakers find alternate revenue sources that insulate school funding from the boom-and-bust cycle of the energy industry.  


“Just continuing to only talk about cut, cut, cut, cut we are losing great teachers,” said Learned. “Because it’s scary when you don’t have a continuing contract to buy a home somewhere, and it’s a risk for people to stay.”


Postcard party participants are invited to send whatever message they want. Learned and Gustafson want to see legislators act on tax recommendations from the revenue committee during the upcoming budget session in February.


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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