How much should Wyoming pay for education? An ongoing trial could answer this question

This article was originally published in WyoFile.

A six-week trial over Wyoming’s school funding formula is underway in a Cheyenne courtroom.

The heart of the matter – whether the state is meeting its constitutional obligation to fund education – is dense and complex. A parade of witnesses is planned to testify on topics ranging from major maintenance projects to school meals, campus security and staffing.

The outcome could impact the mechanisms by which Wyoming funds everything from teacher salaries to deferred maintenance in its 48 school districts. Nearly two years have passed since the lawsuit was filed, WyoFile offers this refresher on Wyoming’s school funding model and the contents of the current lawsuit.

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How we got here

The Wyoming Education Association, a 6,000-member educator advocacy group, filed a 71-page lawsuit in August 2022. Eight school districts joined the lawsuit as intervenors to challenge the state.

The suit claims that the State of Wyoming violated its constitution by failing to adequately fund public schools and withholding appropriate funding at the expense of educational excellence and safety. This has left districts to fend for themselves and divert funds from other crucial educational activities, causing further systemic erosion, the suit claims.

Section 7 of the Wyoming Constitution states that the legislature “shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of a complete and uniform system of public instruction.” Landmark court cases clarified the state’s obligations in the 1980s and 1990s.

The most recent of these, the Campbell cases, paved the way for Wyoming’s current school funding obligations. These cases culminated in 1995 when the The Wyoming Supreme Court ordered the state to determine the cost of high-quality education, fund public schools, adjust funding at least every two years for inflation, and review components of the school funding model every five years to ensure that resources keep pace with needs and costs.

The court required that the legislature “consider education a top priority over all other considerations.” His determination gave rise to a funding framework defined by two key ideas: the “basket of goods” – the skills and subjects students need to learn, and “recalibration” – the process by which Parliament reviews and adjusts its financing model. .

The Wyoming Education Association was an intervenor in this lawsuit.

What’s in the current costume

The 2022 complaint essentially argues that in the years following the Campbell cases, the state failed to meet its school funding obligations. This was done by failing to provide periodic adjustments to external costs and by allocating insufficient funds to match necessary funding levels, the suit claims.

This includes the teacher, administrator and support…

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