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Legislative Budget Session Takes Up Education Cuts

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.




Peterson’s bill would restrict spending on healthcare and retirement plans and place limitations on maintenance and operations staff, among other things.


Kirby Eisenhauer, associate superintendent from Campbell County said districts need spending flexibility to be able to do things like offer competitive salaries and benefits.


"You have 48 different compensation packages across the state, each to meet each individual school districts’ needs," said Eisenhauer. "Our board using local control -- we meet with our employees to find out what their needs are. So in Campbell County we think a higher salary is more beneficial to our employees than cadillac insurance."


The bill also proposes increasing class size. Tammy Schroeder, a former english teacher who now works for the Wyoming Education Association, said this will impact kids.  


"It’s not going to be business as usual with $140 million of cuts over the next three years," said Schroeder. "Whether that’s in a kindergarten classroom or a high school classroom -- that’s going to be a big difference. That’s going to be a big difference for kids who struggle everyday and for kids who are well engaged in the classroom."


Having passed out of committee, the bill will now be discussed on the Senate floor.


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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