CASPER, Wyo. — An examination of Wyoming’s education funding system will include looking into new ways the state can pay for K-12 schools, consultants hired by the state told lawmakers.

The consultants, Denver-based Augenblick, Palaich & Associates, will study Wyoming school funding for the rest of this year and into January ahead of the legislative session in February. The firm is being paid about $500,000.

Four researchers from the firm presented their plan to lawmakers Tuesday as the state tries to tackle a looming education funding deficit estimated at $400 million a year, the Casper Star-Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/2eNDnQB ).

Lawmakers have said the decision to examine education funding does not necessarily mean the state will move toward an entirely new way of funding all 48 of Wyoming’s school districts.

House Speaker Steve Harshman, a Casper Republican, said it was far too early to tell what changes the Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration will ultimately recommend to the full Legislature.

The consultants explained that they would perform a thorough evaluation of the current school funding model, a complex system that sets a price for all parts of school operations — from textbooks to teacher salaries.

The consultants told lawmakers that alternative funding models that could produce savings will be evaluated to ensure they do not hurt public education.

They will also study whether some school districts could be consolidated and review how districts have been collaborating to save money on services.

Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, said the studies will also review school transportation and special education. Every dollar districts spend on those services is reimbursed in by the state, which Landen said provides no incentive for districts to try to reduce costs.

Landen said the consultants will probably examine how student attendance is calculated. State funding for districts is based on the number of students in each school.


Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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