Wyoming Liberty Group

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Wyoming K-12 Echo Chamber

Wyoming Liberty Group attended the July 25 meeting of the legislature’s Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration. It was interesting to see how much of a closed loop the process will be. The consultants engaged to do the work exclusively define interested stakeholders as elected government officials and employees plus employees of and lobbyists for the giant Education-Industrial complex. Accordingly, it’s likely to be simply an echo chamber of ghosts of recalibrations past with reverberations of “send us your money.”

Wyoming K-12 spending has grown dramatically since the adoption of the existing funding and expenditure system early in the 21st century. The amount now being spent is over $16,000 per student per year (not including separately disbursed construction and maintenance funds.) Given the state’s revenue crisis, the legislature now employs a new consultant and engages in recalibration of the current funding and expenditure system.

At the meeting, the new consultant reviewed their work plans with the Select Committee and listed the stakeholders it expects to work with extensively. That list is:

  • The Governor’s office
  • Recalibration Select Committee co-chairs
  • Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Wyoming Department of Education officials
  • Wyoming State Board of Education officials
  • Wyoming School Boards Association
  • Wyoming Association of School Administrators
  • Wyoming Association of Elementary and Middle School Principals
  • Wyoming Association of Secondary School Principals
  • Wyoming Association of School Business Officials
  • Wyoming Curriculum Directors Association
  • Wyoming Education Association
  • “All practitioners from districts located in a region (sic), including: central office administrators, local school board members, school administrators, teachers, other instructional and support staff.”

Note that parents, students and businesses (recipients of education system services and the payers of the taxes) are not considered to be stakeholders!

This list of who is thought to be the influential entities betrays the consultants themselves as part of the Education-Industrial complex. Make no mistake, this complex is a powerful lobbying force, extending above and even beyond the teachers’ union, which, of course, was included in the list. Politicians pay very close attention to the direction of the prevailing lobbying winds and lend support accordingly, if not openly.

While stakeholders will get one-on-one meetings with the consultants, the rest of us are encouraged only to submit written comments through a website, attend the legislature’s recalibration committee meetings (almost always in Casper in case you have time to travel) or complete a survey.

The press release from the Legislative Services Office is here. It has the schedule of future recalibration meetings as well as the link for interested readers to use to send comments. We urge you to do so. This very important issue will really benefit from everyone’s input.

The survey interesting. It has NO black and white multiple-choice questions, and consists entirely of essay questions oriented to people who understand, with a level of some sophistication, the existing school funding/expense model. Tabulation will be difficult and conclusions therefore at risk of wide interpretation and bias. We encourage readers to complete it as they see fit, and feel free to editorialize. PLEASE NOTE: the survey is only open August 14-25.

Remember, if legislators don’t hear from you, your opinion doesn’t count.

It’s unfortunate that our legislators have allowed this closed system to be created in spite of the express intentions of some of them. It seems like an echo chamber, designed to reflect the status quo and the interests of those who have a profit motive and therefore a conflict of interest, rather than those who are served by and are paying for quality education.

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Saturday, 24 February 2018

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