Last week consultants hired to help the state tackle its education funding deficit traversed Wyoming, hosting meetings to gather public input.
Energy industry revenues robustly funded public education in Wyoming for years, but a downturn has lawmakers questioning what to do.
APA, a Denver-based consultant, was hired to look at the current educational program and the block funding model. The process called school finance recalibration, which leads into the 2018 Legislative Budget Session, is weighing more cuts to education and finding additional revenue. Last week consultants went out to get public feedback in Rock Springs, Cody, Buffalo, and Cheyenne.
Gerry Chase, Superintendent of Johnson County School District #1, said about 200 people — from teachers to staff to parents — showed up for the meeting hosted at Buffalo High School. He applauds these outreach strategies, but cautions, “We just went through a recalibration in 2015. We’ve been down this road before. The schools have been funded by the model and it’s worked for them, and we have the results to back that up.”
He’s referring to Wyoming’s scores on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) that indicate educators here are effectively closing the achievement gap, especially for at-risk students. For Chase, that demonstrates the model works.
“So a lot of this work has been done, and I wonder the necessity of it,” said Chase. “Will they really find some cost savings in there? The report might come out and say it might cost more to provide this education”
Chase said policy makers also need to focus on finding long term funding sources outside mineral revenues in order to maintain the educational opportunities that currently exist. And he said he hasn’t heard strong push back from parents about the idea of implementing new taxes to help pay for that.