Legislature close to reaching deal on K-12 education finances

Home|Feature Story, Local News, News|Legislature close to reaching deal on K-12 education finances

SHERIDAN — Wyoming K-12 education will likely face modest cuts in the upcoming 2019-20 biennium, though the specific finances are not yet official. After the House and Senate seemed far apart from reaching a budget agreement as recent as last Thursday, the Legislature approved a general appropriations budget Saturday for 2019-20.

As part of the general budget, K-12 education will be funded in 2019 by the House proposal and in 2020 by the Senate proposal. The House plan will fund education by diverting revenues from other accounts into the education funding account and enacting small educations cuts. The Senate plan will use money from the state’s rainy day fund and make more cuts.

The exact numbers haven’t been determined yet because the Legislature still has to approve a bill on amendments to education finance, which it will likely do Thursday.

Saturday night, the Legislature’s conference committee — composed of five members of both the House and Senate — agreed on an education finance bill but didn’t have enough time to write an official proposal and send it to both the House and Senate for approval.

“I saw the House education bill signed off by the conference committee, but you have to go back to both chambers and they have to approve it before it’s a done deal,” Rep. Mark Kinner, R-Sheridan, said.

According to Kinner, a member of the House education committee and co-sponsor of the education finance proposal, the bill would bring about $26 million in cuts to K-12 education over the next two years. The cuts would mainly come as a result of changing the calculation of average daily membership from the school level to the district level.

It would also provide another $2 million for special education as a way to partially offset the state’s cap on special education funding.

The bill would also affect groundskeeper salaries and take money away from state testing.

“I guess the theory was, “Let’s not over-test everybody and we can save a couple million dollars that way,’” Kinner said.

If the education finance bill is approved by the House and Senate, it will be sent to Gov. Matt Mead for final approval. If the bill isn’t approved, none of the proposed education cuts will be made.

“I’m glad that they agreed to take basically the House’s suggestion for that and I think we put realistic cuts in there,” Kinner said. “I’m not anticipating the governor having any objections with that (bill).”

Going back to the general budget, Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, a member of the conference committee, proposed the idea last Monday of using the House and Senate plan for one year each. Both sides eventually agreed to it and Kinner said he was OK with the idea.

“Then we can compare how those both ended up,” Kinner said. “If we need to make some adjustments or tweak it, we’ll have the ability to do that with a supplemental budget (next January).”

Mead has three days to review the Legislature’s budget proposal — which is a House bill — so the House will meet Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. to potentially override any vetoes Mead made. The House and Senate will meet Thursday afternoon to go over the education finance proposal, along with a bill proposal on capital construction funding.

Thursday will likely be the final day of this year’s budget session, but the Legislature has three days leftover from last year’s session, so it can meet Friday if necessary.

Kinner and Burns will attend the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the Holiday Inn. They will discuss the main takeaways from the session thus far before heading back down to Cheyenne.

 After the House and Senate appeared far apart on education finances only a few days ago, an agreement without any significant cuts should be finalized by the end of the week..

By |March 12th, 2018|

About the Author:

Ryan Patterson joined The Sheridan Press staff as a reporter covering education, business and sports in August 2017. He's a native of Wisconsin and graduated from Marquette University with a bachelor's in journalism in May 2017. Email him at: ryan.patterson@thesheridanpress.com.

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