State Journal: 'Sour grapes' in the Cowboy State
At the urging of Gov. Mike Sullivan, the Wyoming legislature last year created an Education Trust Fund. The idea was to permanently sot aside a chunk of money, $50 million, the interest income from which could be used to provide a steady stream of money for innovative reform projects in the schools.
Lawmakers launched the fund with $10 million, planning to add $10 million a year until 1995. Since then, however, the fund has gotten off to a rocky start.
Because of budget woes, Mr. Sullivan said recently that the state would probably not add any money this year.
Moreover, the first round of grants has been awarded, and districts that did not get any money from the program are crying "foul."
In particular, school officials from Park County are complaining that the members of the committee that awarded the grants gave out too much to their own districts.
The nine districts with representatives on the panel make up only 16 percent of the state's districts, yet they received roughly 60 percent of the $1.26 million in grants.
"I'm not interested in browbeating, but there are some real inconsistencies," said Dick Gregory, the superintendent of Park County District No. 1.
The three Park County districts have asked the committee to re-evaluate the process, arguing that some of the awards either failed to meet the criteria for innovation or did not include required material in their applications. .
But those involved with the program defend the grant process.
The districts that received awards included the state's four largest districts, which enroll about 40 percent of the state's students, noted Scott Farris, Governor Sullivan's intergovernmental-affairs coordinator.
Park County is "upset they didn't get a grant," Mr. Farris said. "That's really about it. It's really to some degree a question of sour grapes."
Sublette County, which received the largest grant--S189,870 to restructure its early-childhood program--had a member on the trust committee. But Superintendent Donald Wright said he did not participate in the sub-group that read his district's application.
Mr. Fan-is said the trust fund will have enough money for a new round of grants this year. But others are skeptical about the outlook for the program.
"I think to sustain this program is going to be somewhat difficult with the state of the budget, particularly if there's an uneasiness out there about the program and how the grants were awarded," Senator Hank Coe of Park County said.--M.S.
Vol. 11, Issue 19, Page 15