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Lawmakers Question Court's Role In School Finance

Wyoming State Legislature

As the budget session comes to a close, there’s still no conclusion on how to fund education. The House wants to use sales tax from online purchases and other new sources of revenue, while the Senate prefers to dip into reserve funding and reduce spending on education.


Cheyenne Senator Affie Ellis brought a bill to approach school finance from a slightly different angle. The Wyoming Supreme Court mandates the state adequately funds education. Ellis proposed a constitutional amendment to limit the power the court has over legislative school finance decisions.


“My goal would be to have a really meaningful conversation without this looming threat of litigation hanging over our head.” Ellis added, “several school boards, I believe seven, have passed resolutions saying that they are looking at suing the state of Wyoming if we aren’t doing our job, and I think that has been counter production to sitting down and figuring this out.”


Ultimately, constitutional amendments are put to a statewide ballot and decided on by voters. But Ellis’s proposed amendment died in the House Education Committee Monday. During public testimony, opponents of the amendment said court oversight prevents lawmakers from gutting education funding.


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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