Wyoming To Cut $45 Million From K-12 Education and Add $8 Million To UW Athletics - Wyoming Magazine


Wyoming To Cut $45 Million From K-12 Education and Add $8 Million To UW Athletics


$45 Million Dollar Cut to Public Education in Wyoming, While Adding $8 Million to UW Athletics Program. 

Recently, Wyoming’s Joint Appropriations Committee (JAC) voted to cut the state’s K-12 education budget by $45 million, while also voting to spend $8 million in matching funds on University of Wyoming athletics. Although our collegiate athletics are a source of pride in Wyoming this does not seem like a decision Wyoming residents will be happy about. The funding over the last few years has been out of balance with UW getting dealt huge amounts of state tax dollars and public K-12 education getting shorted.

The Joint Appropriations Committee is made up of 12 members from both the House and the Senate. You can find them and their email addresses here on the Wyoming Legislatures website. Take a minute and drop them an email if you feel the committee needs to support our K-12 students.

Education is one of the chief hot button issues of our day. Though it is a controversial topic, everyone agrees that keeping our children educated is the number one way to ensure the next generation is populated with responsible, intelligent adults. Recently, Wyoming’s legislature decided on a new series of budget cuts that would affect statewide public education for grades K-12. These cuts, designed to alleviate recent budgetary stresses on the Wyoming economy, are hotly debated and are quickly becoming one of the more controversial issues in the state’s recent history.

Wyoming Legislature plans on cutting the public education budget by $45 million over next two years. The cuts themselves will extend till 2017, with potential for additional cuts in the following year. Wyoming’s governor, Matt Mead, still says the legislature has the goal of Wyoming being one of the best educated states in the country, but even with this goal, budget cuts are still being considered. He has expressed opposition to the budget cuts directly dealing with the education of the children who will be the leaders of the future.

Historically, Wyoming has taken pride in educating their students, coming in at number four nationwide in per student spending. It’s estimated that the state of Wyoming spends about $17,256 per student and in the annual Quality Counts’ report Wyoming scored a “B- average”, well ahead of the nation’s fairly disparaging overall “C” grade.

Legislators seemingly are beginning to change perspectives on budget provisioning for Wyoming schools. In addition to direct public school budgets, lawmakers are also suggesting the shuttering of eight statewide family literacy programs, which will further decrease the state’s overall educational provisioning.

Lawmakers aren’t only taking a direct look at educational budgets. Additional balancing plans include a one percent standards budget reduction across all programs, which will account for a $44 million total decrease in budget statewide. 

Other programs are also seeing changes; local governments are also having their assistance cut. Legislature is cutting that budget to $90 million, which is shy of the $123 million proposed by state governor Matt Mead.

Wyoming is making these changes due to external changes happening to the state. As a result of the recent natural oil and gas price drop, Wyoming is facing a slight budgetary crisis. These two exports amount to about 70 percent of the state’s total revenue. As a result of these price drops, it’s estimated that Wyoming will have a $335 million shortfall, a shortfall that Wyoming plans to mitigate the loss in its $3.7 billion state budget by cutting programs like those mentioned above. 

Whatever the cause, these changes in the educational budgeting in Wyoming will certainly affect many. With the proposed loss of funding for the eight family literacy programs, families looking to boost their overall level education will be greatly affected. While these programs might find funding through other means, nothing is guaranteed.

Children in grades K-12 will potentially also be affected by these budget cuts. Potential losses in school can include, reduced testing requirements, poorly performing teachers slipping through the cracks, and an overall decrease in the quality of education in the state. 

Clearly, state governor Matt Mead disagrees with the reduction in education budgets, though his criticism of the policy has been tempered with a belief that everyone, including state legislators, wants to provide the best education for Wyoming residents. He disagrees with the decision, but understands the reasoning behind it.

Mead’s stated belief is that legislators should look to the state’s ‘rainy day fund’ to offset any shortfalls that have been occurring due to energy pricing. The state of Wyoming currently has $1.8 billion dollars allocated to its “rainy day fund”. The fund possibly could be used to help education bridge the funding gap its currently experiencing thus allowing the JAC to adjust the entire funding model to be better prepared to support our K-12 students and programs. 

Mead’s First Lady also disagrees with the JAC’s budgetary solutions. Carol Mead has been a staunch proponent of early childhood education and these cuts directly affect Wyoming’s statewide programs. Mrs. Mead has even authored a children’s book aimed at boosting early childhood literacy that features art by local high school students. 

Wyoming has always taken pride in having the best education and being able to hire and retain the best educators in the nation. These cuts are going to threaten all the work we have done to build this amazing k-12 educational system.

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