Wyoming school districts form coalition to reinstate annual inflation-adjusted funding
Superintendents meet with Governor Mead to discuss effect on students and to seek support
by Sublette County School District #1 media release
July 23, 2014
PINEDALE – A coalition of seven Wyoming school districts have joined together to advocate for the reinstatement of an inflation adjustment to the school funding program, according to Dr. Boyd Brown, superintendent of Campbell County School District #1. The coalition includes Campbell County School District #1, Carbon County School District #1, Johnson County School District #1, Sheridan County School District #1, Sublette County School District #1, Sweetwater County School District #2, and Teton County School District #1 – a diverse group of small, medium and large districts throughout the state.
Together, Wyoming’s 48 school districts have not received cumulative inflation adjustments for the last four years, three of which account for approximately $151 million (FY 2011, 2012 and 2013), forcing many schools to eliminate, delay or not fully fund essential reading, foreign language, art, remediation, academic enrichment and technology programs, among others. New curriculum programs have also been delayed, and many schools have had to eliminate teaching and other professional positions.
"Inflation occurs whether we like it or not," said Brown. "School building heat and electricity, various types of required insurance, and many other fixed-budget line items continue to increase year over year – just as they do in Wyoming’s households. Without cumulative inflation adjustments to our annual funding we have been unable to cover the basic costs of running schools throughout the state. This lack of funding is resulting in increased class sizes and creating disparities in the quality of education being delivered to Wyoming’s students."
"Legislation regarding inflation-adjusted funding for Wyoming school districts is already in place," said Brown. "We’re respectfully requesting that the legislature bring forth a bill that will provide for an automatic, annual, cumulative inflation adjustment. This will allow school districts to plan ahead as student count grows, offer critical and increasingly challenging educational programming, and hire and retain the best teachers – all of which is essential to the very purpose of K-12 education in Wyoming: to prepare all Wyoming students for college and/or the rigors of the workplace in today’s skills-based, competitive economy."
Governor Mead met with several superintendents and business managers from the coalition on July 9 to discuss how the lack of cumulative inflation adjustments in annual school funding for the last four fiscal years is affecting students throughout Wyoming. The seven-district coalition is also working closely with its local legislators to discuss how Wyoming’s students are being adversely affected and to seek solutions.
"I appreciated the opportunity to meet with these superintendents and hear their proposal. Meeting with them showed me that we have strong leadership in our local school districts," Governor Matt Mead said.
During the coalition’s meeting with Governor Mead he requested additional information from school districts about how the loss of inflation adjustments is hurting Wyoming’s students. Specifically, he asked for further updates about the loss of technology support and readiness, and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming. These are areas of focus for Governor Mead aimed at preparing students and diversifying and expanding Wyoming’s economy.
As a result of the lack of inflation-adjustments, Sheridan County School District #1 has lost a total of 23 staff members, which is a 12.5% workforce reduction, while student population increased from 919 in fiscal year 2011 to 957 in fiscal year 2014. "Our certified teaching staff losses have caused an increase in the state mandated K-3 16:1 class size to 17.4:1," said Marty Kobza, superintendent of Sheridan County School District #1. "We have also eliminated certain reading, science, art, technology and enrichment programs, and remainunable to launch our STEM programming in any substantial way.I believe Governor Mead, Senator Enzi and many of our legislators agree – STEM programming is essential to our student’s success in Wyoming and beyond."
"We appreciate Governor Mead’s interest and support of education in Wyoming," said Brown. "We look forward to working with him and our local legislators to identify and implement a timely solution."