Wyoming Senate Education Committee Passes Bill to Address Education Funding Shortfall

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The following is a press release issued by the Majority of the Wyoming State Legislature regarding Senate File 165, which was recently passed by the Wyoming Senate Education Committee. SF 165 can be viewed here: http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2017/Introduced/SF0165.pdf

Cheyenne, Wyo. – Legislation aimed at addressing Wyoming’s significant education funding shortfall while safeguarding quality in the classroom was passed by the Wyoming Senate Education Committee today.

“The hard truth is, our education funding shortfall is too big to tackle with a single solution,” said Senate Education Committee Chair Hank Coe. “Taxes won’t do it. Cuts won’t do it. We need an approach that stops the bleeding today while giving us the opportunity to work collaboratively on a long-term solution that still protects and nurtures our most important natural resource here in Wyoming – our kids.”

Senate File 165, School Finance-Education Funding, sponsored by Senators Bill Landen, Bruce Burns, Hank Coe, Dan Dockstader, Ogden Driskill, Stephan Pappas and Drew Perkins, makes temporary reductions to education funding and establishes a select committee on school finance recalibration. The bill is the result of collaborative efforts between Senate leadership, Education Committee Members, Appropriations Committee Members and key education stakeholders.

“Wyoming has students, teachers, schools and administrators of which we can all be proud,” said Senator Landen. “The legislature has worked hard over the years to support our education system – investing over $22.3 billion, opening dozens of new schools and renovating even more. That commitment remains as strong as ever as we navigate this funding shortfall. Our goal with Senate File 165 is to identify potential funding reductions that ensure this legacy, this commitment continues.”

Wyoming currently faces a $1.8 billion education funding shortfall over the next five years. The state’s education system is more dependent on mineral development than any other segment of government, with 65% of the funding for the daily operations of Wyoming schools coming from the taxes paid by mineral producers. A decline in fossil fuel prices coupled with heavy-handed energy regulations from the federal government have resulted in a severe drop in state revenues. As a result, Wyoming is facing the largest education funding deficit in Wyoming’s history – between $360 and $400 million per year. This does not include major maintenance and capital construction, 100 percent of which are funded by minerals and coal lease bonuses.