December 14, 2020
LARAMIE, Wyo — As part of its monthly People’s Review: Live! online series, the nonpartisan Equality State Policy Center will host a panel of education policy experts to discuss how Wyoming should balance the need to address revenue declines with its constitutional obligation to educate its citizens.
The roundtable discussion, “The Real Cost of Defunding Education in Wyoming,” will take place from 5-6 p.m. on Thursday, December 17 via Zoom.
The event is free and open to the public, and people can register here.
In accordance with the state constitution, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled in 1995 that Wyoming must provide an adequate and equitable education to every student. In fact, the court placed education funding above all other roles of the state, ruling that because “education is one of the state’s most important functions, lack of financial resources will not be an acceptable reason for failure to provide the best educational system. All other financial considerations must yield until education is funded.”
“That means prioritizing education and investing in Wyoming’s future—at least in this one regard—is built into the system,” said ESPC’s executive director, Chris Merrill. “It also means school-age children in Wyoming are guaranteed the same competitive education whether they live in Lusk or Jackson Hole. That kind of equity is pretty incredible.”
Merrill said the issue for the Legislature now, after years of ignoring cries to diversify Wyoming’s economy, is how it ensures that providing a quality education regardless of zip code remains a top priority amid steep revenue declines.
“Thanks to taxes and royalties paid by the minerals industries, Wyoming’s promise to educate its citizens has been easy to keep,” Merrill said. “On an individual level, most of us haven’t had to have any real skin in the game. That’s going to have to change if we truly believe educating Wyoming’s kids is a promise worth keeping.”
“The Real Cost of Defunding Education in Wyoming” will feature Wyoming State Senator Jeff Wasserburger, Wyoming Education Association Government Relations Director Tate Mullen, Teton County School District Liaison to the Wyoming Legislature and Wyoming School Board Association Past President Janine Bay Teske, and Wyoming School Board Association Director Brian Farmer.
“Wyoming’s public schools are the beating hearts of our communities and a visible, tangible investment in this state’s future,” Merrill said. “We need to make sure our policies reflect the true value of Wyoming’s schools.”
The event is free and open to the public. Register online at https://equalitystate.org/the-peoples-review/.
The Equality State Policy Center is a nonpartisan, nonprofit coalition of 30 social justice, labor, and conservation groups in Wyoming working to improve the lives of all Wyoming’s people through transparent government, fair elections, and thriving communities. ESPC encourages the public to participate in the legislative process and encourages all eligible voters to register and participate in elections.