External Cost Adjustment
In October, the Joint Appropriations Committee voted to support the Joint Education Committee’s recommendation for a fully-funded External Cost Adjustment for Wyoming’s public schools. This amounts to a sustained (ongoing) increase of $68 million in education funding in the next biennium.
A fully-funded ECA is essential to ensuring that districts have the resources to absorb inflationary pressure on costs associated with providing a high-quality education, including utilities, supplies, personnel, and more.
Though this vote does not remedy the structural funding shortfall plaguing Wyoming’s public school system, we are grateful to lawmakers for recognizing the need to allocate funds toward covering the growing cost of providing equitable, high-quality public education to students in our state.
The JAC’s recommendation will then go to Governor Gordon for his consideration as he drafts the Governor’s Budget.
This interim, the Joint Education Committee has considered interim topics relevant to education, including student access to mental health, educator retention and attraction, school choice, and K-3 reading.
The JEC’s top priority for this interim is student access to mental health. Unfortunately, the committee made no progress in furthering legislation beneficial to expanding easy, stigma-free access to adequate mental health services in our public schools. Instead, they opted to resurrect Wyoming’s version of Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.
As for the Joint Education Committee’s effort to resurrect the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, the Wyoming Education Association worked collectively with a variety of private citizens and other organizations to defeat the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ portion of the proposed bill. However, the committee is still working on a bill that would out LGBTQ+ students to parents and may put students who may be experiencing abuse or neglect in harm’s way. The bill is part of a more significant national effort to undermine local control and the expertise of our educators, counselors, psychologists, and nurses.
The Mental Health and Vulnerable Adults Task Force—a group of legislators and private citizens tasked with addressing Wyoming’s mental health crises—drafted a bill that will go to the Joint Appropriations Committee for consideration, which provides additional funding to districts for school counselors, psychologists, nurses, and pupil support positions. These funds will sunset in 2025, with the recalibration to be conducted that year.
The Joint Education Committee is also working on a bill that even their own Legislative Services Office deems unconstitutional. The school voucher bill would provide public dollars to families who want their children to attend a private or parochial school. This is a violation of Wyoming’s Constitution, and WEA will continue to work in opposition to this bill.
While it is still 2023, work around the 2024 election cycle is already underway. Not only are legislative races of great importance next year, but school board races should be a top priority for educators and friends of public education across the state. Designated extremist group, Moms For Liberty, is already hard at work across the state recruiting candidates for school board races. The Wyoming Education Association is working with targeted locals to ensure that members, educators, and friends of public education are working just as hard to recruit and run high-quality, education-friendly school board candidates in these races. Locals across the state should be working diligently with other stakeholders to recruit candidates.
The importance of this work cannot be understated, and members should engage at the local level to help assist in door-knocking campaigns, candidate recruitment, or school board candidate forums.
Our legislative races are also of great importance. Across the state, if moderate house Republicans lose eight or more seats to far-right extremist freedom caucus candidates, the consequences for the state and for education will be dire. Please make sure you have updated your voter registration. It is time to canvas, advocate, and vote for the moderate, education-friendly candidates we need to succeed; please give some of your time and energy to these campaigns and candidates next year—the future of Wyoming’s public education system depends on their success.
Finally, as our 2024 Budget Session is set to begin in February of next year, please make sure you have signed up for our legislative updates to keep track of all the events transpiring at our state Capitol and to monitor our Bill Tracker and Legislative Report Card to check your lawmakers’ voting record on legislation impacting public education.
Are you interested in running for school board or the House or Senate? Do you know a champion of public education well-suited to public office? Do you want to get more involved in supporting pro-public education lawmakers’ campaigns? Contact WEA Government Relations Director Tate Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org or (307) 286-3096 to get started.