Wyoming Legislation Could Add Strings to Funding


Last Updated: January 25, 2011
 

This article appeared in the January 2011 Rural Policy Matters.

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The Wyoming legislature is considering changing its funding and accountability provisions. Two separate bills are under consideration.

The proposed Education Accountability Act, would move ultimate accountability for education results away from local districts and to the state, and it would impose financial and other restrictions on districts whose students do not meet specified scores on standardized tests.

Currently, state education funding is allocated through block grants to Wyoming’s 48 school districts. Local districts have wide latitude in deciding how to spend the majority of those funds. The state’s school finance model was developed in response to the Campbell school finance lawsuit and is recalibrated every five years to ensure equity and adequacy in the way funding is distributed to schools.

The Accountability Act would end much of that latitude for low-scoring districts and give the state more authority over them. Provisions in the proposal reflect recommendations presented by Governor Dave Freudenthal and school finance experts during last year’s recalibration process. (See June and August  RSFN for more background information.)

Several other education proposals are also coming forward including proposals to shift authority for charter schools to the state, end teacher tenure, and tie teacher pay to student test scores.

Several lawmakers have also proposed measures to end Wyoming’s participation in federal education programs. Federal funds account for about 6% of education spending in the state and help pay for special education, school meals, English Language instruction, technology, Indian Education, and a variety of other programs in addition to the federal Title I program for very low-income students. Some supporters of these measures say the state could cover the costs and reduce paperwork for schools, but it is not clear if or how the programs would be funded were the state short of funds.

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Local coverage:

Text of the accountability bill:

Read more from the January 2011 Rural Policy Matters.