The news dominating Wyoming right now - The Legislature is in session, I hope to visit in the next couple of weeks and sit in on some of the education funding discussions. Education funding is a huge concern in our state as the mineral extraction industry has footed the bill for many years.
It will be interesting to see what happens. State Income Tax, more sales tax, a raise in property taxes, or a combination of all of the above. As much as no one wants new taxes or an increase in taxes, I don’t see a lot of options. Wyoming schools are doing well, currently rated as the 7th best state for public schools in America. We can use some of the rainy day money for a year, or two, but somewhere, somehow, a permanent funding model must be found.
One idea being bandied about is to increase classroom numbers or combine school districts – both terrible ideas. If the legislature decides to do this, I hope they call it what it is. Cutting the number of teachers, putting kids on long bus commutes, and taking away one of the things that make our schools really good – small classroom size. I may be prejudiced on this, having been in the classroom for more than four decades. Too often the idea comes up, “let's consolidate like the states around us.” I was in Nebraska in the 1970s, when they started to consolidate, and when they did, many of the schools were within five or six miles of each other, not the 25 or more that we have in Wyoming. Within a few years, schools that lost their high school’s, lost their identities, and often lost other businesses and then people.
What would I do? Good question, and here is my answer. First, this should not be about politics or getting re-elected, although it probably will be, which is too bad. Before reading, understand that I might not like all of these, but think it may be a long-term solution.
Two cent increase in State Sales Tax – (money must be earmarked for education only)
1% of the room rate added to the Lodging Tax. (money must be earmarked for education only)
With a bit of a pickup in minerals, this might do it for now.
The Times are Changing - It is also likely the time to merge the State Department of Education with PTSB, long overdue. Although it is a bit stop-gap, it might also be time for a five-year moratorium on the new school building program.
|Pronghorn are from the old days - really old days|
Good luck to the legislature, they have a tough job ahead of them.