(Gillette, Wyo.) The Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration met today in Cheyenne. The morning session was dedicated to hearing reports reviewing findings from Augenblick, Palaich and Associates (APA). The Denver-based company was tasked by the select committee to conduct a study of the Educational Program and Funding Model in Wyoming.
View APA’s full recommendations here.
Select Committee Chairman Hank Coe of Park County said in preparation for today’s meeting, he reviewed the Wyoming State Supreme Court’s Campbell Decision. He read aloud from Chapter 51 of the ruling for the benefit of those in attendance:
“This court made it clear it is the job of the legislature to “design the best educational system by identifying the ‘proper’ educational package each Wyoming student is entitled to have.” Almost all states’ highest appellate courts have considered challenges to school finance systems, and eighteen have concluded that the finance system was either unequal or inadequate, or both, under their state constitutions. Arizona, Ohio, and New York revisited and overturned decisions upholding school finance systems. Unlike the majority of states which emphasized additional funding, equalized funding, or basic education, Wyoming views its state constitution as mandating legislative action to provide a thorough and uniform education of a quality that is both visionary and unsurpassed. To that end, this court required the legislature to consider education as a paramount priority over all other considerations and has identified class space, class size, teacher quality, and local innovation as factors critical to its determination that the legislature is providing a quality education.”
According to APA there are four ways to determine the adequacy of an educational system: professional judgment, successful schools, statistical and evidence based. The APA study used the first three methods in their most recently study. The fourth was used by Wyoming in 2015 and is the basis of the current funding model.
In addition to a cross-state comparison of Wyoming’s educational system, APA also hosted several school-level panels to gain input on the data and recommendations. The survey showed the participants agreed with the majority of APA’s recommendations except the recommendation to increase the average class size by two students.
The survey also showed that participants agreed teachers need to be paid within the top ten percent of the nation in order to be competitive in recruiting and maintaining quality teachers. In the open comment section of the survey, participants articulated that school districts tend to be top heavy and would prefer a reduction in administrators before teachers.
The Select Committee ended the day with a summary of Legislation they plan to take action on Tuesday, including school finance recalibration for transportation, special education, model components and administrators. The committee plans to reconvene in the morning and will also take public comment.