Equal lunches for all

The Wyoming Department of Education pushes back against anti-discrimination Federal funding requirements
Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 11:13 AM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - June is Pride month, and the Wyoming Department of Education is pushing back against a new Federal policy that would ensure the state puts the added equality of school policy in writing.

Recently the Biden administration issued a mandate to update anti-discrimination policy, which would update the language and incorporate sexual orientation and gender identity requirements into the criteria for states to become eligible for Federal nutrition program funding.

The Administration officials say this will root out discrimination, while ensuring nutrition and other programs are accessible to all students.

But Wyoming Department of Education officials are pushing back, calling the new requirement “Federal over-reach”.

”Increasingly there is push from Washington D.C. to tell Wyoming how to spend funds, and how to meet the needs of folks in Wyoming,” said Chad Auer, Wyoming Department of Education’s Deputy Superintendent.

Auer says he wants to make sure the kids are getting fed.

“We want to make a clear distinction between the procedural piece from the political angle. Let the Superintendent as the candidate and as an elected official advance his concerns in the political area,” said Auer.

But the Executive Director of Wyoming Equality Sara Burlingame, is criticizing that stance, saying the state for not taking a stand to support equal access to education for all students. Saying that folks should pay attention to who is using their office to campaign rather then create sound policy.

“It’s a mystery to me why our Superintendent didn’t tell the Federal government like ‘Thanks, we got it covered, we do that. Were committed to that in Wyoming.’ It could have been a home run for us.” said Sara Burlingame, Executive Director of Wyoming Equality.

Even though the Wyoming Constitution guarantees equality, homophobia and discrimination continue to be a thorn in Wyoming’s side.

Recent municipal efforts to create a anti-bias ordinance brought attention to discrimination and homophobia experienced by students and military families, only illustrating Wyoming has a ways to go towards living the equality they claim to have.

In response the State Superintendent of Instruction Brian Schroeder stated, ”It’s unnecessary to specifically highlight certain individuals or subgroups. Moreover, its a violation of the state’s rights and an aggressive form of Federal overreach. If we don’t fight it , we enable it. To do so is to buy into the agenda that the people of Wyoming do not embrace.”

Burlingame sees it differently saying, “People think this is representative of Wyoming values and I don’t think that’s true. I think we make sure that all of our kids get fed. I think from the very beginning we’ve said equality is a right and we keep doing what we do.”

To receive this funding, states must not only update non-discrimination policies, but also investigate allegations of discrimination.

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