Superintendent Charles Auzqui talks about school funding.
Several Clearmont community members attended the meeting held on March 9th at the Arvada-Clearmont School to discuss school funding, with many more tuning in via Facebook.
Superintendent Charles Auzqui presented a slide show and spoke on various issues affecting the school.
“It is the perfect storm” Auzqui said, mentioning the pandemic, money and revenues being down and how education is changing.
Auzqui spoke of the pandemic and the challenges the school faces there, saying Arvada-Clearmont is doing well so far making sure student and staff are safe.
School funding was the major topic, and Auzqui said that the funding model will be different in the future. Over the next two to four years there will be a $200 to $500 million deficit projected for education funding.
““What we provide now we may not be able to provide in the future. But we have to make changes from the top down,” Auzqui said. “We don’t want to shut the wrong things off and hurt kids.”
Auzqui also told the audience that several bills were being considered in the legislature, and he noted that once the bills are passed they become law and cannot be changed. He urged community members to contact their representatives on these bills, “They want to hear from you,” he said. “Let them know where you stand on these issues. Nothing is in policy yet, but these bills are on the table.”
House bill #HB0061 bill that re-calibrates school financing, and could create cut of $85,000 to $100,000 for Clearmont.
House bill #HB0077 has to do with the possible reorganization of school districts, reducing the number of districts in the state from 48 to 24. Auzqui said that if this bill passes, and if Sheridan County districts 1 2 and 3 were reorganized into one district, there would be a loss of local control, and board members that are elected by the local community. He urged community members to contact the legislators to let them know what they feel about the bill. “They are our allies,” Auzqui said.
Another bill, HB0089, address school funding, and will reduce activities funding. “Activities are important to the students, and the school is the community center.” Auzqui said. “But, athletics may be reduced, and activity transportation may be limited.” He mentioned that some schools has a ‘pay to play’ program to cover the cost of athletics, or charge for events.
“Bill #154 is one that is good for small schools,” Auzqui said. “It take the 15% carryover of funding to 25% carryover over 5 years. It is good for small schools to be able to put some away to offset the impact of future funding.”
Other topics included some different avenues for school funding, such as a tax that would go strictly for education. Another possibility that has been discussed to cut expenses was the eliminating of transportation money for schools, and parents would be responsible for making sure the students get to school.
“In previous years schools received much of the funding from Wyoming minerals. With coal production down, mineral funding is down, and it really hurts our schools.”
“We have hard decisions to make, and we have to be on the same page,” Auzqui said. “We don’t want it all to be doom and gloom, but it’s going to be tough. Keeping staff is our #1 priority and we can maintain what we’ve done. We want quality over quantity, and things are going to change.”
He added that block grant funding was also good for small schools, and he hoped it would continue as is has for several years. “We want local leaders to oversee the block grant, and we don’t want it categorized, we want to be able to use it where we feel it is needed.”
Auzqui urged all of the community members to positively engage their representatives and lay out their case for the school. The school can provide community members with the name, email and phone number of the representatives so people can contact them. “Let them know what is important to you. Let’s be grateful that they are asking for our input on these important matters.”