Lawmakers, Education Officials Set to Spar Over Voucher Bill
The Wyoming Education Savings Account Act, also known as House Bill 19, aims to provide low-income families with $40 million in funds to help increase their education options.
Representative David Northrup, Chair of the House Education Committee, said that the bill is the first of its kind. The funds would be available to students in grades K-12, as well as pre-K.
"Constitutionally, we're able to provide funds to help families who are below the poverty line," Northrup said. "This bill is another tool in the toolbox. It's meant to help those children get a leg up."
If the bill passes, qualifying families will receive up to $5,000 in the form of vouchers to help defray the cost of tuition at private and religious schools in Wyoming, as well as online.
Some online programs may present a challenge, as they're located outside of Wyoming. When asked about the possibility of taxpayer dollars going to other states, Northrup said that the bill may need to be amended.
Other critics of the bill, like Wyoming Education Association's Tate Mullen, say that the bill is a disservice to Wyoming public schools.
"This bill allocates $40 million that could be better spent funding our K-12 system where over 90% of our students already attend," Mullen said. "Diverting those funds to private and parochial schools […] violates our state constitution's provisions."
The Wyoming Education Association — which counts more than 6,300 members across the state — filed a lawsuit against the State of Wyoming in August 2022, alleging that the State had failed to meet its constitutional obligation to fund schools. The case is set for trial in June.
This reporting was made possible by a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, supporting state government coverage in the state. Wyoming Public Media and Jackson Hole Community Radio are partnering to cover state issues both on air and online.