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School Finance Bill Dies Right Before Session Ends

Bob Beck

The Wyoming House and Senate could not reach a compromise on a school funding bill that would have cut around $135 million over three years. The bill is dead for the session.

The dispute was over the House wanting to use cuts and revenue diversions to help address a roughly $300 million dollar shortfall in education spending. The House also objected to the Senate wanting to limit school districts use of federal money approved by Congress.

Senators on a conference committee, trying to iron out differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill, demanded that K-12 education face similar cuts as those in the Department of Health and other necessary services. At one point, House Majority Floor Leader Albert Sommers told the senators that if the bill dies, they'd get no cuts, which ended up being the final result.

Sen. Charles Scott of Casper was critical of the House, calling them tax-and-spend liberals, and said there was no way to reach a deal. Speaker of the House Eric Barlow told the House of Representatives that the issue will be revisited in the future. Gov. Mark Gordon and many lawmakers said that education budgets had to be reduced this session.

Many school districts, which are in the process of addressing their budgets, had planned to make cuts to addressing a reduction in revenue. Brian Farmer of the Wyoming School Boards Association said it's not known whether districts will follow through with those ideas now.

Bob Beck retired from Wyoming Public Media after serving as News Director of Wyoming Public Radio for 34 years. During his time as News Director WPR has won over 100 national, regional and state news awards.
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