special education

Screen shot from Wyoming PBS live stream

Wyoming is the only state not using Medicaid to cover special education services in schools, and that could be costing the state money.

Tennessee Watson / Wyoming Public Radio

School boards across Wyoming are in the midst of putting together budgets for the coming academic year. While lawmakers took a break from reducing education funding in 2019, they failed to identify new revenue and more stable funding for schools. K-12 education funding saw roughly $100 million in cuts between 2016 and 2018. School boards say they are still absorbing the shock of those cuts.

University of Wyoming College of Education

The Wyoming legislature's Joint Education Committee received an update Tuesday from the University of Wyoming concerning efforts to better prepare teachers for the state's classrooms.

A public hearing will be held on proposed changes to special education funding. The Wyoming Association of Special Education Administrators (WASEA) called for the meeting because they say more time and information are needed before weighing in on the new Chapter 44 rules.

As part of an ongoing effort to root out inefficiencies in public education, lawmakers have asked the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) to draft rules that strengthen guidelines for special education spending. Wyoming is the only state to reimburse school districts 100 percent for special education services.

Jack, his mom Sarah Chatfield and his teacher Tia Reed pose with the cookies he's brought for the teachers at his IEP meeting. A team works with Jack and his family to create an individualized learning plan to accommodate his low vision.
Tennessee Watson

In an effort to curb the rising costs of K-12 education, the state legislature voted to cap spending on special education during the 2018 Budget Session. Lawmakers also directed the Wyoming Department of Education to come up with efficiencies. While educators agree there’s room for improvements, they say Wyoming’s rural nature complicates things.

House Bill 211 is a simple bill that has the potential to make a big difference for families of young children with disabilities.  

State funding for developmental preschool and early intervention programs is based off a once a year enrollment count. These programs work with kids, ages zero to five who have disabilities, to help prepare them for school and life. House Bill 211 proposes pushing the date of that count from November 1 back to December 1.

The Wyoming Legislature

The Senate Education Committee is continuing to work on Senate File 165 that proposes a number of reductions to school funding. The measure is one of several being considered as the legislature looks to make up a $400 million shortfall in K-12 funding.

Among the bill’s proposals, it would freeze special education funding and offer early retirement to teachers within five years of retiring. The committee has heard over five and half hours of public input.

On the list of recommendations to reduce Wyoming’s education budget deficit is a cap on special education funding. That means moving forward, districts that need to spend more than their allocated budget will need to cover those additional costs on their own.