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Senate Chambers

Senators work in the Wyoming Senate chambers on Jan. 11 at the Wyoming Legislature in Cheyenne. 

Dan Cepeda, Star-Tribune

Lawmakers spent roughly $800,000 this past year on consultants tasked with finding a way to change how the state funds the school system. They hoped the process – with its hefty price tag – would yield savings. They wanted the consultants to find places to cut spending. But when lawmakers got the results – which offered a new funding model that increased the cost of education funding in the state – they swiftly rejected the consultants’ new model.

Lawmakers, it seems, only wanted one solution from recalibration – cuts. But if you’re going to pay someone for advice — $800,000 advice – you should probably consider taking that advice to heart.

We understand why they looked to recalibration for advice on slashing spending. The state’s looming budget deficit poses a politically challenging endeavor for legislators. Education funding will be their biggest hurdle at the upcoming legislative budget session, and they hoped that recalibration would ease the burden of finding a solution.

But far from it, they were left with $800,000 worth of advice that they weren’t looking for. Instead of recalibration finding that the state was spending too much on education, it showed we’re getting exactly what we pay for.

And that’s the folly of trying to solve problems by simply getting out the scalpel.

Instead of trying to slash their way out of this $850 million hole, lawmakers need to employ a combination of solutions.

They hoped the recalibration consultants would make their jobs easier. They tasked recalibration with giving them the solution they wanted, rather than working to find the solution that Wyoming needs.

But there’s no easy way out of this.

Lawmakers have squashed nearly every proposed bill aimed at generating revenue through taxes or restructuring in this upcoming budget session. Heartened by the increase in projected revenue and fearful of the political repercussions of supporting such bills, lawmakers have shied away from making tough choices.

But they ran for office to serve the public. And that requires making tough choices. It requires making decisions that won’t please everyone.

Cutting education funding to ribbons is going to have a long-lasting effect on the Cowboy State. The ripples of what lawmakers do right now will could last far longer than legislators’ next election cycle.

Wyoming’s schools are an integral part of the draw of the state. We want families to raise their children here. We need young couples to stay and put down roots. Without opportunity for quality education, Wyoming risks becoming obsolete.


Opinion Editor

Dallas Bower joined the Star-Tribune copy desk in June 2017. She studied English at the University of Wyoming. Her favorite book is The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, or Harry Potter, depending on the day.

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