School District 2 planning for major cuts

Sheridan County students will return to classes next week. (Photo from Sheridan Media files)

Sheridan County School District 2 is planning for some major cuts as district authorities prepare the budget for the year that starts on July 1.

District 2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty said Wyoming’s Legislature voted on the education budget in March, the governor signed it into law and state lawmakers aren’t planning a special session before June 30 at the earliest.

But, he said, the governor and legislators could still come in with budget cuts in the middle of the school district’s fiscal year.

Dougherty said Governor Mark Gordon has mandated that state agencies with the exception of public schools look at a 20 percent cut in their budgets, while the University of Wyoming and the community colleges are looking at a 10 percent cut in the coming year and another 10 percent the year after that.

Dougherty considers those indicators of what may be ahead for Wyoming schools, and said he’s been talking to legislators about that.

Dougherty said the global economic shutdown that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted Wyoming’s revenue picture, and in response, School District 2 halted as much spending as possible. He said the school district is looking at saving as much money as possible.

He said School District 2 already has the tightest budget, because the district doesn’t spend unnecessarily.

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David Myers
10 months ago

The refusal of the legislature to find funding for schools through whatever means necessary is a huge failure. I hope this ends up in front of the WY Supreme Court, because they have ruled again and again in no uncertain terms that Wyoming’s constitution requires that public schools be funded adequately and equally. Every time the legislature cuts a little deeper, the brain drain in Wyoming gets a little louder. It’s well past time to look at revenue raising options, and yes, I’m talking about taxes, to fulfill our responsibility to our students. A short-term solution is to disburse federal Covid relief funds to our school districts to make up the difference. There was over 32 million dedicated to Wyoming for K-12, and there are a lot of grants that individual schools and districts can apply for. Unfortunately on that end, Secretary DeVos made it much easier for for-profit charter school vultures to get the money than Wyoming’s amazing public schools. Bottom line: we elect our senators, representatives and governor to solve problems like this without diminishing the quality of education that our children have. The superintendent also needs to be thinking for himself and looking for funding, not just talking to legislators. My family loves Wyoming. We don’t want to leave. But “you can’t eat the scenery” so they say, and if our schools start to fail, that’s one less thing keeping us, our money, and our children (Wyoming’s future) here.

Jim Drake
10 months ago
Reply to  David Myers

I question the need for yet another increase to education funding, considering the fact spending on our public schools is already the largest of all the state’s budget expenditures. In addition, an annual automatic adjustment to education to account for inflation already adds $15 million a year to the cost. So Wyoming ranks No. 1 in our region for education spending and No. 5 in the country.

It leaves me shaking my head that the Education Committee is once again recommending even more spending increases. It begs the questions: Where will the money come from? Which budget will we rob from or what tax increase is coming?

The explanation for the proposed increase from committee leaders was that Wyoming’s Supreme Court required education to be the Legislature’s top funding priority. My answer to that is that K-12 education is already the largest segment of our ever-growing state budget.

Where we spent $1,234 per student in 1979, we are now spending $16,381 in 2019. The Legislature has elected to spend more than the funding model suggests every year since 2001. And yet we need to spend even more? Since 1979 our K-12 education budget has grown nearly 400 percent!

Also consider that most school district superintendents in Wyoming — we have 48 — make more than our Governor

Folks, no one seems to driving this runaway train and sadly, I don’t see any stop to it. All of this leaves me with the question: How much do we need to spend or how much is enough for our schools to be happy enough to prevent them from suing the Legislature a fourth time.

Personally, I say bring it.

What evidence do our schools have that they are not our top priority? Most districts have new buildings, new buses, the highest starting salaries in the region, low class sizes, top-of-the-line benefits packages and the best students in the nation to work with. I for one grow tired of the threat of a law suit. Times have changed over the last 40 years and frankly, they do not have a leg to stand on.

Finally, I would add this: If our Supreme Court rules again that our school districts need more money, then I would challenge our justices to balance our state budget. Are roads important? Water, sewer and other infrastructure that make our communities nice to live in, are they important? How about health care? Emergency services, law enforcement?

I could go on and on with other budgets that will continue to be robbed in the name of education. Look at the numbers. Look at what we spend. Look at what we have spent with the funding increases over the last 40 years and then tell me with a straight face that more is needed to maintain the quality of our education. And please don’t tell me that I don’t believe in education as much as you do. Or that I just don’t understand how education works. I see what goes in and what comes out, and I’m left thinking that we can do much better.

mike mclaughlin
10 months ago

cuts are needed….. no new taxes PLEASE!

Ed Fessler
10 months ago

With looming cuts facing our educational system – combined with the Covid threats – perhaps the school districts of the state might consider following the lead of Sheridan College in eliminating the costs of sports programs. I understand all the benefits of sports as an extracurricular activity. This would impact not only the budget (Administrative AD positions, coaches, travel expenses, etc) but also greatly help flatten the threat of Covid spreading from city to city by athlete and fan interaction. Schools are first and foremost educational institutions. Hard decisions must be made during hard times.

Ed Fessler
10 months ago

When covid is a memory… the downside of cutting sports –

I know the coaches at the high school. To the person they are some of the very best SHS has to offer when it comes to building positive relations with their student athletes – true role models that teach life lessons beyond their respective sport. With the loss of mineral money the public may have to decide the long term value of their extra curricular efforts. A “pay to play” position could find many families unable to fund their child’s participation. Might it be time to consider other funding sources, including a tax increase? Hard decisions…hard times!