Wyoming has seen its first drop in student enrollment in more than a decade according to data collected by the state Department of Education. Districts lose money when enrollment declines. The good news is that enrollment funding is based on a three year rolling average.
Department of Education Communications Director, Kari Eakins, said that gives school districts a little bit more time to make wise cuts.
“If there is a position they can just not rehire instead of having to lay somebody off or if there is a program that is not being used anymore then they can stop putting resources to that,” Eakins said, “instead of having to look at cutting something that is useful and effective.”
Wyoming’s funding model also guarantees that every school district has access to the same basic resources – despite declines in enrollment or revenue generated by the local economy. The current policy provides a buffer, but not a long range budget solution.
The biggest declines occurred in districts where the extractive industries are struggling financially. And because a decline in enrollment means a decrease in funding, these school districts are facing what policy makers and educators are calling a "double whammy."
“At the district level they know that their guarantee from the state is probably going to go down, that the legislature is going to make some cuts,” according to Eakins. “And then if they have a decrease in enrollment on top of that then that’s two levels of cuts creating a double whammy for the individual school districts that see a decrease in enrollment.”
On top of that, Eakins said districts such as Campbell County are dealing with students facing their own economic hardships, as indicated by a rise in the numbers of students eligible for free and reduced lunch.