Education Funding

Wyo. Begins To Consider Finance Intricacies

By Adrienne D. Coles — March 12, 1997 3 min read

A long-awaited report spelling out the cost of education in Wyoming may mean good news for the state’s large school districts but a lobbying battle for smaller ones.

The study, part of the state’s answer to a wide-ranging school finance decision by the state supreme court last year, was submitted to the Wyoming legislature last week. Prepared by the consulting firm Management Analysis and Planning LLC of San Francisco, the document attempts to make sense of how much the state spends on education.

It will now be a working document for lawmakers in their efforts to design a new finance system--one that complies with the court’s requirement that all Wyoming students be given an equal educational opportunity.

“It’s pretty close to the court’s decision,” said Sen. Tom D. Kinnison, a Republican and co-chairman of the joint appropriations committee.

“I’m pleased,” agreed GOP Rep. Rick Tempest, another co-chairman. “It’s what we’re asking for.”

Adopting the plan would cost the state, which now spends around $600 million a year on its schools, an estimated $51 million more. Fourteen of the state’s 49 school districts would receive less money from the state than they do now.

A Detailed Formula

The plan would move Wyoming away from a funding system built around the number of classrooms in the state and instead base funding on school enrollments. To come up with a per-pupil funding level, the consultants recommend determining how much money would be spent on nearly two dozen items, including personnel, supplies, material, equipment, and special services. Adjustments would be made for student characteristics, such as limited English proficiency. School district conditions, including the presence of small schools, would also warrant adjustments.

Aid to districts under the proposed finance model would differ according to the number of students in elementary, middle, and high schools. The model supposes that, on average, an elementary school would have 288 students with 14 to 18 students for each teacher. At the high school level, schools would have approximately 600 students and a teacher for every 16 to 20 students.

The model can also be adjusted to accommodate year-to-year demographic changes, advances resulting from educational research, changes in teaching, and technology. It would also be able to accommodate changes in district boundaries, which are likely if smaller districts consolidate.

“We could have the districts share resources such as superintendents or administrators,” Mr. Kinnison said. “It would be much more economical to deliver it in a larger setting.”

The legislature will hold four subcommittee hearings next week to allow opinions on the study to be heard.

A special legislative session in June will go over the reform plan in finer detail. The new finance system is expected to be phased in over several years, officials said.

Under the consultants’ plan, larger districts would come out ahead. Under the current aid formula, rural schools are given extra state aid.

“The legislature is not out to cripple the small school district,” said Mr. Tempest. “The recommendations hit them pretty hard, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the legislature add money to help the small schools out.”

Small Schools Spotlighted

Changes in the state’s finance system are expected to make consolidation a more practical option for small schools.

The report acknowledges that design of the new finance system will prove difficult, and that controversies surrounding its enactment are likely to be intense. But the supreme court has forced lawmakers to make serious changes.

In November 1995, the court ordered the state to define the “education package” every student should expect, and the court asked the state to calculate its cost. “Supporting an opportunity for a complete, proper, quality education is the legislature’s paramount priority,” the high court said. (“Court Again Strikes Down Wyo. Finance System,” Nov. 22, 1995.)

The court gave lawmakers until this July to come up with a solution. State officials said last week that the cost of the study throws their debate into sharp focus. And legislators are expecting that the lobbying from small schools will begin quickly.

“Before closing this session we had some discussion on school issues,” Mr. Tempest said. “It quickly turned into urban against rural schools. Those representing small school districts are making it known how hard it will be to take a hit this big.”

Related Tags:

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Embracing Student Engagement: The Pathway to Post-Pandemic Learning
As schools emerge from remote learning, educators are understandably worried about content and skills that students would otherwise have learned under normal circumstances. This raises the very real possibility that children will face endless hours
Content provided by Newsela

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding Some in Congress Fear State Budget Decisions May Undercut COVID-19 Education Relief
A dispute in Wisconsin over coronavirus relief underscores how technical issues and politics are affecting education spending decisions.
4 min read
Image shows an illustration of money providing relief against coronavirus.
DigitalVision Vectors/iStock/Getty
Education Funding There Are Big Funding Gaps Affecting High-Poverty Schools. Can Biden Close Them?
Hurdles lie ahead for a $20 billion bid to create "Title I equity grants" to address long-standing funding inequities.
9 min read
President Joe Biden talks about the May jobs report from the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Friday, June 4, 2021.
President Joe Biden made boosting Title I for disadvantaged students a key part of his education platform on the campaign trail.
Susan Walsh/AP
Education Funding Education Department Issues Directive on Shielding Students in Poverty From Funding Cuts
The agency released the "maintenance of equity" guidance on COVID-19 relief as part of a public-relations blitz on equity amid the pandemic.
5 min read
Image of a $100 dollar bill that is cut into blocks for distribution.
E+/Getty
Education Funding New COVID-19 Aid Coalition Highlights Strategies for Retaining Teachers, Digital Learning
The coalition representing school officials, teachers' unions, and others, has pledged a multiyear effort to use relief aid effectively.
2 min read
Mary Euell helps her sons, Michael Henry, left, and Mario Henry, work through math lessons remotely in their Erie, Pa., home.
Mary Euell helps her sons, Michael Henry, left, and Mario Henry, work through math lessons remotely in their Erie, Pa., home.
Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News via AP