Wyoming School Budget Cuts

The state of Wyoming has more than 20 billion dollars in funds, and the state’s treasurer announced a billion dollar investment growth last year.

But lawmakers are working on a plan to cut education funding, and jobs.

The topic of discussion for Wyoming lawmakers meeting in Cheyenne soon will be class size.

Representative David Northrup of Powell says if they follow a consultant’s recommendations to increase class sizes, the state could save more than $70 million dollars a year.

State Senator Hank Coe of Cody agrees.

Coe explained, “We will cosponsor a bill through the Select Committee on Re-calibration.”

Coe said “re-calibration” is the mechanism required by law to fund all of Wyoming’s School Districts equally.

He said they did the last re-calibration in 2015, “then we come up with a 300 plus million dollar shortfall.”

Wyoming’s income fell when energy prices fell, so the legislature cut school funding last year.

Yet, Wyoming has a lot of money in several accounts:
Coe said, “The state treasurer manages about 22-billion, total.”

But, Coe said some funds are restricted, so that only the investment income can be spent. Others have specific purposes.

He said, “For instance the common school land income fund. Which we depleted that to fund K12 through the last two years, the biennium we’re currently in.”

But, months after the state treasurer announced a billion dollar investment growth, educators are wondering why more teachers will lose their jobs.

Cody School Superintendent Ray Schulte pointed out, “We have made cuts.”

Schulte estimated larger class sizes will cut his teaching staff by another twelve positions. And, it’s getting harder to attract new employees.

Schulte explained two job applicants turned down positions at Cody’s Middle School because he couldn’t promise them they wouldn’t lose their jobs to budget cuts.”

Sarah Mikesell Growney is a parent, and she’s also a businesswoman.

She reasoned, “So we have money in the bank, and yet we want more money by attracting businesses. Why are we hurting the thing that we can tout as the best thing going for us, which is our education system?"

Schulte suggested the legislators should keep the same level of funding for now.

He explained, “Revenues are up. Maybe it won’t be as drastic as it was predicted to be. So, do we want to make huge cuts?”

Cod said the state’s consultants will deliver a report on the larger class sizes January 12. He said the re-calibration bill will be written at the end of January.

Wyoming’s legislature convenes February 12.