GREEN RIVER — The Sweetwater County School District (SCSD) No. 2 Board of Trustees discussed possible state budget cuts to education funding during their meeting Tuesday night.
Chris Dean, SCSD No. 2 Business Manager said the Wyoming Legislature is currently looking at HB61, which outlines modifications to the Wyoming education resource block grant model in the form of a $100 million cut to the legislative model statewide for FY 2022.
“That equates to about $1,000 per student in the state of Wyoming, which is a 6.5 percent decrease in funding,” Dean said.
This bill enacts the education funding model formula as used in fiscal year 2021 and reduces the computation of the foundation program amount by $100 million in FY 2022 and each year thereafter.
“Each school district’s foundation program amount is reduced by an amount equal to $100.0 million divided by the statewide average daily membership multiplied by a district’s average daily membership each school year,” the bill states.
The estimated absolute impact of the change to the foundation program amount is a decrease of $90.5 million in FY 2022, $81.2 million in FY 2023 and FY $81.1 million in FY 2024, according to the bill details.
SCSD No. 2 Board Chairman Steve Core asked the community to reach out to local representatives to speak against this bill. He said it is in the Wyoming State Consitution that the legislature must fund schools before anything else.
According to Core, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled the legislature must fund the “basket of goods” which is Wyoming’s education mandates that is put together by the state legislature themselves.
Core said Natrona County Senator Charles Scott was quoted in the Casper Star Tribune recently, saying the legislature will probably be sued over this bill.
“What’s real frustrating, I guess, is we need to do what’s right for kids in this state and we all know what that is, and it makes no sense to me that we’re spending money on lawyers to get what the Constitution and the Supreme Court says they have to supply,” Core said.
Second Round of CARES Act Funding
On Monday, Dean was notified that the second round of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding is making its way to SCSD No. 2. She said preliminary estimates are $2.3 million.
This funding must be used toward COVID-19 Coronavirus related expenditures, and must be used by September 2022. The second round of CARES Act funding cannot be used until the first round is completely spent.
Dean said the majority of the first round of funding has been spent, and that there is about $50,000 of the grant that is not obligated at the moment.
“We have needs and we’ll get through that,” Dean said.
Core said he believes the school district should put a focus on ensuring the entire school district has the technology to be able to move to complete online learning if needed. Trustee Mark Sanders said there should also be a focus on purchasing equipment to ensure the schools are able to continue with on-campus learning. He said there is equipment they can purchase to contain the virus, for example.
“We need to show that we’re putting our foot forward in keeping kids in school safely,” Sanders said.
Superintendent Craig Barringer said 144 members of the SCSD No. 2 staff have volunteered for the COVID-19 vaccine so far. Of those who volunteered, 120 staff members received the vaccination Wednesday. Castle Rock Hospital District will be administering the rest of the vaccines for the first 144 staff members this weekend.
“That’s a great thing,” Barringer said. “Gives us hope.”
More staff members will be able to volunteer for the vaccine shortly, according to Barringer.