The Wyoming Joint Education Committee talks costs

Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 9:28 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - With inflation on the forefront of everyone’s mind, retaining educators and the cost of quality education are quickly becoming the focus of budget and long-term revenue projections.

The Wyoming Joint Education Committee held its meeting on Tuesday morning, and Community College funding, Capital Construction, and future costs were up for discussion.

“We all know that we need more funding to keep the quality we have right now. But nobody is really willing to engage in the conversation about where that funding is from. The reality is that we have to diversify our tax base we have to become less reliant on coal, oil, and gas for the future of revenue, and that means changes for our tax structure,” said Sen. Chris Rothfuss, District 9.

Even though lawmakers say state funding is secure with the current boom in energy prices, lawmakers are looking for ways to secure additional funding to offset growing inflation and, in turn, the rising tuition costs.

Some suggestions included adjusting revenue structures through state taxes or creating tax mills.

But other lawmakers feel the state is overspending on construction projects.

"They are very luxurious. We have spent since the Campbell decision and this probably doesn’t include the spending over the last few years. We have spent over $3.9 billion on school capital construction. It is my judgment that we could have gotten by with less than half of that and done perfectly well. It has turned into a pork barrel process," said Sen. Charles Scott, District 30.

This committee meeting happened after the State of Wyoming was served with a lawsuit from the Wyoming Education Association in the middle of August, alleging that schools are underfunded, leading to poor quality education, buildings that are not up to code,  and high teacher attrition rates.

The WEA also claims these go against the Wyoming Constitution’s guarantee of equal opportunity for the thorough and proper instruction of the state’s youth.