I am concerned about the state of educational funding in Wyoming. We have one of the better funded systems in the United States; our teachers are fairly paid, our curriculum is extensive and inclusive, our classroom sizes are small, and our schools are new and well maintained.
According to an Aug. 8 article in Wyofile.com, the Joint Revenue Committee is currently being “tasked” with finding ways to come up with between $100-300 million to help the Legislature deal with the funding deficit for public education. This is a major job in a fiscally conservative state that recoils from any mention of the word “tax.”
The Joint Revenue Committee has, according to the article, investigated some areas of taxation that could result in over $200 million to help meet the deficit. Of course, this is one committee working over the summer to provide some solutions that may or may not appeal to the whole Legislature when they get to the budget session in February.
That is where “we, the people,” come in. If the deficit is not dealt with, we are going to see changes in our schools – and therefore, our entire communities – that are going to shock and horrify us who have gone to these schools, sent our children to these schools, participated in hundreds of school-based activities and community events, and boasted of our world-class educations and blue-ribbon schools.
As various public meetings are held in these next few months, we must shed any lethargy we have and find a way to be informed about what changes are being considered, what sacrifices we are willing to make, and what actions we can take to make our currently excellent public schools stay the course through some tough financial setbacks. We must look at ways to keep this strong and experienced teaching force, our infrastucture, and our curriculum.
We are very fortunate in Sublette County to have Albert Sommers as our state representative. He recently met with a small group of concerned citizens and alerted us to the obstacles he sees facing the Legislature and the need for immediate and sustained public involvement. He urged us to get involved, attend these committee meetings, and get in touch with legislators to register our concern and let them know what WE want and are willing to do to help solve this crisis. Comments can be sent to legisweb.state.wy.us/PostComments/Disclaimer.aspx?CommID=SSR.
It may be more effective to contact legislators personally. They have a very difficult job right now and would probably appreciate knowing what their constituents really want.
There are four Legislature interim meetings scheduled in August that are not open to the public but are open to educational practitioners, including Aug. 14 in Rock Springs, Aug. 15 in Cody, Aug. 16 in Buffalo, and Aug. 17 in Cheyenne. The more people who show up to provide input and experience, the more we have an opportunity to steer the direction our state will take.
In Sublette County, there will be an opportunity to learn more about this issue on Tuesday, Aug. 29, from noon to 2 p.m. at the Pinedale Library Lovatt Room. It is a potluck lunch.
While our elected officials are tasked with finding hundreds of millions of dollars to support education in Wyoming, we should task ourselves with getting involved to help find solutions rather than be taken be surprise when all that we have taken for granted is no longer there for our children.
Jana Weber is a retired schoolteacher with 27 years of experience teaching in Sweetwater and Sublette counties, as well as Idaho.