Senate President Dockstader feels Wyoming needs a reality check. His intention to deal with "unsustainable" school funding from "a foundation of cuts," and VP Hicks' need to find a floor show profound misunderstanding. We don’t have a school funding problem. We have a revenue problem that has easy solutions.
The legislature’s latest study concluded schools were underfunded $90 million. Since then, it cut K-12 education by $131 million. Senators demand another $200 million in cuts. Yet, our public schools remain fifth in the country, a wonder despite the same given our high comparative rural costs.
What business will relocate here and what families will want to remain if we dismantle our schools? It’s pennywise and pound foolish. Statewide, class sizes burst at the seams. Student athletic, academic, and co-curricular opportunities dwindle. Districts shutter schools, leaving entire communities without schools. Teacher salaries aren’t competitive. Our most experienced educators retire in droves due to incentives to avoid layoffs and burnout resulting from cuts. Districts across the state face teacher shortages in even easy to fill positions. Programs and services helping at-risk students are being slashed. Counselors, special ed specialists, and social workers are overburdened. Additional cuts mean layoffs of thousands of school employees across the state which worsens the impact of devastating cuts to local and state economies.
A 2017 survey showed 78% of Wyomingites and 74% of Republicans support paying more in taxes for schools. 60% support a sales tax increase. In addition, UW economist Robert Godby’s 2021 budget alternative research proves cuts to K-12 schools remains their top concern.
A 1% sales tax would temporarily fix these problems and buy more time to address structural deficits. A modest progressive state income tax would discourage the world’s billionaires from establishing vacation homes as legal residences to use us as their domestic Cayman Islands to shield their wealth from state income tax and solve the revenue problem. It would be entirely sustainable and cost most Wyomingites nothing while simultaneously discouraging the planet’s super-rich from buying up the state to make it their personal private playground. Perhaps Wyoming deserves more responsible and courageous stewards.
JOSH THOMPSON, Casper