GILLETTE — A national publication highly regarded by educators has ranked Wyoming the best state in the nation for school finance.
It’s a ranking State Superintendent Jillian Balow said is an important story and shouldn’t be overlooked.
The Education Week report, as part of its annual Quality Counts rankings, looks at school finance as one of three major areas of education. But it isn’t just about how much each state spends, Balow said, which is quantity and accounts for just half of the scores that were released Monday.
Wyoming received a score of 95.6 points for spending, an A grade.
Overall, the Cowboy State received 92.8 points and an A, the highest score in the nation. That’s up from third overall in 2018. The other half of the A grade Wyoming received — something no other state accomplished — is equity, which is based on how fairly public money is spread to schools and districts across the state. That’s where quality meets quantity in school finance.
Wyoming earned 90 points, an A-minus, in equity, a grade that often gets overlooked, Balow said.
Education Week will finish its report and rankings in September. The grades are part two of three studies and reports. A year ago, the results lifted Wyoming’s education system to seventh in the nation overall.
Depending on the full report, the state could be headed for another top-10 ranking in 2019. And since state finances and education spending are often hot topics each legislative session, the results should be taken into account.
Wyoming spent $18,090 per student in an estimate that includes regional cost differences, according to the report released Monday. That ranks third in the nation.
Ranking first in the nation is Vermont at $20,540 per student and New York, second, at $19,697.
Following Wyoming is Alaska, fourth, $17,872; Connecticut, fifth, $17,798; New Jersey, sixth, $16,543; New Hampshire, seventh, $16,347; Pennsylvania, eighth, $16,122; Maine, ninth, $16,006; and Rhode Island, 10th, $15,320.
The same chart shows that Vermont spends 5.4 percent of its taxable resources on education and Wyoming follows at 5.1 percent, the top two percentages in the nation
Wyoming earned 90 points or an A-minus in equity, ranking seventh in the nation.
Scoring ahead of the Cowboy State were No. 1 Florida, 92.6; No. 2 Tennessee, 91.1; No. 3 Kentucky, 90.8; No. 4 Wisconsin, 90.6; and No. 5 (tie) Iowa and Maryland, 90.4.
The nation as a whole earned a score of 63 in spending with about $12,756 per student. That’s about 3.3 percent of taxable resources. That’s an overall grade of C, or 74.9 points, and a grade of D in spending with 63.0 points.
The United States also received a B-plus in equity with 86.8 points.
One state in the region also received an A-minus grade in equity. North Dakota scored 89.5 points in that category.
Three states surrounding Wyoming received scores of B-plus in equity: Colorado 87.4, South Dakota, 86.7; and Utah, also 86.7.
But many states in the region also received grades of D or F in spending. Here’s a look at the scoring for other states in the Rocky Mountain region:
Colorado: 40th overall, 67.3 points, D-plus; equity, 87.4, B-plus; spending, 47.2, F.
Idaho: 49th overall, 60.6, D-minus; equity, 80.7, B-minus; spending 50.6, F.
Montana: 27th overall, 72.2, C-minus; equity, 82.5, B; spending, 61.8, D.
Nebraska: 20th overall, 74.9, C; equity, 85.0, B; spending, 64.7, D.
North Dakota: 10th overall, 83.5, B; equity, 89.5, A-minus; spending, 77.6, C-plus.
South Dakota: 42nd overall, 67.1, D-plus; equity, 86.7, B-plus; spending, 47.6, F.
Utah: 46th overall, 62.6, D; equity, 86.7, B-plus; spending, 38.5, F.