Legislative Session Starts February 10th, 2014
On February 10th, the Wyoming Legislature will convene for the 2014 general session. During the 20-day session, the Legislature will work on the statewide budget, as well as many issues, including external cost adjustments. The Governor has submitted his budget to the Joint Appropriations Committee, and they will bring their recommendations to the Legislature.
WEA has been active in following the issues that affect our members. President Vetter and I have attended meetings of the Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability, Joint Education Committee, Joint Appropriations Committee, and others. We have worked with members of the Education Coalition to monitor these issues as well as to provide input.
The Legislative session is fast approaching, and the Wyoming Education Association has been hard at work on behalf of all our members.
WEA has been working on a pay increase for Community College employees. This work started with President Kathy Vetter, Executive Director Ron Sniffin, and Government Relations Director Ken Decaria meeting with Governor Matt Mead to ask that he include an increase in his budget. Subsequently, the Governor has included $3.65 million in his proposed budget for a 2% increase over the biennium for community college employees. The Joint Appropriations Committee is now working on a budget to take to the Legislature for the 2014 Budget Session. The Governor has also included funding for Community College employees to pay for increases to the contribution rate for the Wyoming Retirement System.
Obtaining a K-12 external cost adjustment (ECA) is high on the list of both the WEA’s and the Wyoming Education Coalition’s priorities for the legislative session. Often called a “cost-of-living” adjustment, the purpose of an ECA is to adjust the amount of funding provided to school districts through the Wyoming Block Grant School Funding Model for changes in the prices of goods and services purchased by Wyoming school districts. This adjustment is the means to correct the model for inflation. No ECA has been provided since the 2008-09 school year, despite the fact that inflation in Wyoming since that time has risen an average of 14%.
What has been the effect of the lack of an ECA for several years? While everyone was very appreciative of the one-time retention bonus provided to district employees by the Legislature, the reality is that in many school districts, salaries have been frozen for a significant period of time, and benefits costs have continued to rise. Worse yet, some districts have been forced to lay off or cut hours for personnel due to funding that has not kept up with inflation. Textbooks and curricula in some locales are not being updated, despite the necessity to implement revised Wyoming student content and performance standards. Similar stories have been shared regarding lack of sufficient funds to provide adequately for technology, science materials, professional development, non-core classes, and student activities. Teachers are buying supplies and books for student use out of their own pockets because of cuts to school budgets.
The Joint Education Committee and the Joint Appropriations Committee have both recommended support for an ECA, and the Governor’s budget message supports the JAC call for an increase to salaries.
We continue to monitor issues related to the Wyoming Retirement System (WRS). WEA has worked proactively as a member of the Coalition for a Healthy Retirement System to increase public awareness.
Please consider becoming a Legislative Contact Team (LCT) member. Local members involved on LCTs serve as a vital link to legislators by providing them information about issues important to our members. This contact should occur not only when the legislature is in session but on a year-round basis. We are lucky to live in a state where we have access to the individuals who represent us and the ability to make our positions known. Contact your local president if you are interested in serving.
Sign up for the “WEA Legislative Update.” Keep informed of what is happening during the legislative session. To sign up for the update, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for all you do for Wyoming education. If you have questions, please contact me at email@example.com.
Explanation of Retention Payments passed by the Legislature.
The 62nd Wyoming Legislative Session ended March 10, 2013.
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Updates from Legislative Meetings held the week of December 10th, 2012
Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability –
On Wednesday, Dec. 12, legislators gave initial approval to a bill that would give a good amount of accountability system development responsibilities and funding, as well as some positions from the Department of Education, to the State Board of Education. To read state newspaper articles -
Update on Wyoming Retirement System -
On Thursday, Dec. 13, the Joint Appropriations Committee directed its staff to prepare legislation for the coming session to ask employees in Wyoming to contribute more of their pay to the Retirement System to ensure that the state public pension system will meet its obligations over the long term. To read entire story, click here.