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Reports from Policy Analysts

Wyoming Districts Look to Sue State Over Funding

Submitted On: Monday, April 24, 2017

Analyst: Rehbein, Tiffany

Seven districts in Wyoming have agreed to a possible lawsuit against the state over school funding. Lawmakers in the 2017 Legislative session, which wrapped up in early March, cut $34.5 million in state school funding.At this time, it is unknown when the suit will be filed.  

Generally, districts disagree with cuts to school funding made by the lawmakers and how those cuts will be implemented. Currently, a Select Committee on School Finance is holding hearings on school finance recalibration. That committee is scheduled to hold seven two-day hearings around the state leading to the filing of a recalibration bill set for January 2018, just before the legislative Budget Session. Wyoming lawmakers are preparing to replace the current state funding model which is currently facing a $400 million annual shortfall in the next few years.  

One portion of the funding model being re-evaluated is the 16:1 student-to-teacher ratio for grades K-3 approved in 2011. The NCTE guideline, Why Class Size Matters Today, (2014) notes that “research on early elementary school students, small classes usually mean fewer than 20 students, while for high school students the definition of ‘small’ classes is usually somewhat larger.At this point, many of the districts have avoided teacher layoffs and have kept reductions away from classrooms, choosing instead not to fill one-year only positions, recently vacated positions, and cutting some high school sports programs.  

Natrona County School District #1 – the largest remaining school district that has not approved a resolution to possibly sue the state – is looking at eliminating 110 positions over the next three years. School leaders believe they can achieve those reductions through attrition, reassignment, and not rehiring vacant positions. This is a common stance among larger districts at this time.  

Four of the state’s five largest school districts – Laramie County School District #1, Sweetwater School District #1, Albany School District #1, and Campbell County School District #1 – are part of the coalition looking to sue the state. Sheridan Country School District #1, Sublette County School District #1, and Lincoln County School #1 have also approved resolutions authorizing possible legal action. The district’s resolutions don’t mean they will sue, it simply means they have been authorized by their school boards to file individually or as a group. Teton County School District #1 is monitoring the process closely. 

The NCTE guideline, Why Class Size Matters Today, (2014), notes that “[o]ne of the most common arguments against smaller class sizes is financial.” The guideline lists the following reasons to remain mindful of reduced class size: 

  • Small classes play a major role in student learning 

  • Teacher workload should be considered  

  • Younger students, at-risk students, students with a disability receive greater benefits from smaller classes 

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