November 17, 2021 |
Funding K-12 schools in Wyoming is no small task. It involves two different agency budgets within the Wyoming Department of Education: Agency 205 — Education School Finance; and Agency 206 — the Department of Education. With a biennial budget of slightly over $2 billion, the WDE’s two-year funding request is one of the largest in the executive branch of state government.
On Monday, Governor Mark Gordon announced that he will submit a $2.3 billion budget proposal to the legislature next month. Most of it is education.
Pictured above: File photo of Rawlins Middle School. Photo by Cali O’Hare/Bigfoot 99.
The School Foundation Program provides a guaranteed level of funding to every public school district in Wyoming. The “guarantee” is met through block grants based largely on the number of students enrolled in the district in the previous year. The state Education Department oversees the complex funding model for resources and personnel. In recent years, underwriting K-12 classrooms has become one of the state’s biggest challenges because of declining state revenues. It’s no different in this budget.
Historically, K-12 schools have been largely funded through royalties from coal. With coal out of favor politically and priced out of the market by natural gas, how to pay for education has meant borrowing.
State School Superintendent Jillian Balow, in an interview with Bigfoot 99 last week, said that although energy prices have stabilized, they are still nowhere they need to be to fund schools the way they have in the past.
Balow said her department was able to use federal Covid-related dollars last year to offset some of the deficit spending. With those dollars running out, Balow said Wyoming is still facing a cash crunch when it comes to schools.
The governor’s $1.8 billion education budget proposal includes $36.3 million to cover inflation and match market value costs for salaries during the first year of the two-year cycle.