Wyoming Education Association

Summer 2021

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6 The 2021 General Session ended in a bittersweet stalemate. The House and Senate were unable to come to terms on the culmination of draft legislation impacting the future of Wyoming's public education funding, House Bill 173. In some ways, this was a victory. Throughout the session, we saw attacks on everything from student activities funding to education employees' health insurance, salaries, and more. So, concluding the session without massive cuts to education means we held the line and were able to maintain our status quo for Wyoming students. Unfortunately, largely due to one-time federal dollars received through the federal American Rescue Plan, lawmakers have once again been afforded the luxury to stall on mandating a new reliable, dedicated source of revenue for Wyoming public schools. As we've seen repeatedly in recent history, the House of Representatives took a reasonable approach to fulfill their constitutional obligation to adequately funding education— even in the face of economic hardships befalling the state— through utilizing reductions which were a product of a new health insurance plan eliminating "ghost teachers", as well as a proposed sales tax, and revenue diversions. However, the Senate and, most notably, the Senate Education Committee remained philosophically committed to slashing public education funding. House Bill 173, which left the House as a thoughtfully laid out compromise that used every avenue to continue supporting high-quality public education in Wyoming, was gutted by the Senate. It seems that the Senate has two set positions: The first is that cuts to education are a priority—without raising any revenue. The second is that saving is a priority over spending, even during this historic economic downturn. Because both chambers agreed to discontinue work toward a compromise on House Bill 173, education took no substantial cuts during this session. However, it is important to note that a cut to health insurance reimbursement was passed in the budget bill in 2020. This cut did take effect in the 2021-2022 school year, which was in the budget bill passed in 2020. While education funding emerged from this year's session relatively unscathed, we will need to sustain and amplify our legislative advocacy efforts during the interim. Our unified voice for education will need to be organized, loud, and clear to fend off the assault education funding is sure to face during next year's Budget Session. Your willingness to stand up for students and contact your elected officials preserved education funding. WEA members wrote hundreds of emails and letters to Wyoming lawmakers. WEA delivered thousands of (18,000+) postcards advocating for prioritizing and protecting public education to Wyoming lawmakers. We saw unprecedented engagement from members and community members outside of WEA and even outside of education. Business owners, parents, and communities of faith have joined our ever-louder collective voice for public education! Thank you to our members and education advocates for your work and dedication. The road to any sense of stability in education funding looms long before us. It will be your continued advocacy and the growth of our collective of vocal education advocates that will continue to preserve and protect Wyoming students' right to high-quality education and a prosperous future in our great state. Please consider donating to WEA's Political Action Committee for Education (WEA-PACE). These funds directly support pro-public education candidates. The next election cycle will mean the potential for movement in half of the Senate seats and all offices in the House. Learn more and donate at wyoea.org/wea-pace. Additionally, WEA is constantly advocating for public education. We are hosting events, sharing information, networking with legislators, running media campaigns, and more. There are countless opportunities for education advocates to get involved. Contact me anytime to learn more about our ongoing efforts and explore ways you can support protecting public education and prioritizing Wyoming students. In appreciation, Tate Mullen WEA Government Relations Director tmullen@wyoea.org (307)286-3096 Legislative Session Recap Though education advocates successfully thwarted attacks on education funding out of the Senate, Wyoming lawmakers failed to establish a new source of revenue for Wyoming public schools. The Joint Conference Committee for HB 173 meets to discuss legislation with potential for massive impact to public education in Wyoming. April 7, 2021.

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