PR Live Recap: Education in Wyoming

December 18, 2020

Last night’s People’s Review: LIVE! The Real Cost of Defunding Schools in Wyoming featured another all-star panel of experts. Wyoming Senator Jeff Wasserburger was joined by Teton County School Board Member Janine Bay Teske, Tate Mullen of the Wyoming Education Association, and Brian Farmer of the Wyoming School Boards Association.

They dug into everything from the Wyoming Constitution to the Campbell Decision(s) to the complexity of school funding before highlighting the most important point of the night: that a high-quality education for every child in Wyoming is a core value in our state—and has been since our territorial days.

Sen. Wasserburger noted, too, that the state’s long commitment to education has resulted in stellar outcomes: the state currently ranks #5 in the United States for our K-12 public education system.

When asked whether Wyoming has “champagne tastes on a beer budget” (thanks for that, Tate!) or “is driving a luxury model when a mid-level sedan will do” (from the very active chat!), our panelists had answers. It’s a myth, they said, that there is “fat” to cut in these budgets:

  • Wyoming’s teacher pay ranks 17th in the nation
  • Administrators make up four percent of the budget
  • Activities comprise four percent of the budget
  • Supply costs amount to three percent of the budget
  • And district consolidation (sometimes floated as a cost-saving measure) would save less than one percent.

All panelists emphasized that the future of the state hinges on education: Our workforce, our communities, our quality of life, our ability to attract new businesses to the state, the diversification of our economy. Education is the cornerstone for each and every component of Wyoming’s future.

The bottom line is that the future of education is inextricably bound to our willingness to address the state’s structural deficit, rising insurance prices, and revenue needs. We must act together—now!—to protect the legacy of our state’s education system and secure the future for our children.

Brian Farmer shared some sentiments from John Campbell, the territorial Governor of Wyoming, that remind us why this is all so important:

In laying the foundation of a new State, education should be the corner stone, for without it no durable political fabric can be erected.

It matters little how great our material prosperity may be, if our moral and intellectual growth does not keep pace with it. It is a duty we owe not only to ourselves and to our posterity, but to all mankind. In the diffusion of knowledge among the people rests our only hope for the preservation of our free institutions.

Now, in the infancy of our territory, let the fostering aid and encouragement of the government be given to every scheme for the advancement of education, and to establish as the corner stone of our embryo state the principle of universal, free, common school education.   
-Governor J.A. Campbell’s Address to the First Legislative Assembly of Wyoming Territory (Oct. 13, 1869), in WYOMING TERRITORY, MESSAGES OF THE GOVERNORS: 1869-1890.  

And Janine Bay Teske closed out the evening with an important reminder: We have exceptional (and exceptionally humble!) teachers in our classrooms. They are the people who make the system go.

Watch the whole hour right here!

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